CPR: Are You Prepared in an Emergency?

Updated:Dec 3,2015

Woman Practicing CPR

Time stood still as I watched in horror: My 6-week-old baby boy was about to roll off our king-size bed. It was like a bad dream. I saw little Jonathan taking a dangerous fall but was helpless to stop it. I raced to him and lifted him from the floor. He was unconscious. He wasn’t breathing. I cradled my precious boy’s tiny limp body and watched as he began turning blue. “This can’t be happening,” I thought.

Thankfully, I had taken an infant CPR class as part of my job working with young children, and I remembered what I had learned.  I immediately started performing infant CPR.

I laid Jonathan down, and began cycles of 30 chest compressions and two breaths. While doing the compressions, I reached the phone with my other hand and dialed 9-1-1, placing the emergency operator on speaker. He coached me to keep going and dispatched an ambulance. After what seemed like an eternity, but was probably only about 3 minutes, Jonathan regained consciousness back to consciousness. Watching his skin return to its normal, rosy color was miraculous.

Smiling Young Man Giving Thumbs UpWhen I took the infant CPR course, I never dreamed that one day it would help me save the life of my own child. I’m so grateful I took that course! Jonathan is now a healthy 15-year-old boy who rides skateboards, hangs with his friends and family, and studies film as a hobby.

How much do you know about CPR? Can you answer these questions:

  • What is CPR?
  • What does CPR do?
  • What are the most recently recommended CPR techniques?
  • Do I know when CPR is needed?
  • Am I really prepared?

New research shows that 80 percent of cardiac arrests happen in the home. You, your family members, your friends, your employees and everyone else need to learn CPR. Now is the time to prepare, so you are ready when an emergency occurs.

What is CPR?
CPR is short for cardiopulmonary resuscitation. It’s a rescue procedure used when a person is not responsive and not breathing (or not breathing normally). The reasons vary why someone stops breathing and the heart stops beating effectively. However, when this occurs, another person can perform CPR to help keep oxygen-rich blood flowing to the victim’s body.

Illustration of LungsWhat does CPR do?
CPR keeps blood pumping through the heart when the heart isn’t effectively pumping blood on its own. That keeps blood moving to the body and brain. CPR can help revive the heart and lungs and potentially prevent severe brain damage or death. 

What are the recommended CPR techniques for adults?
The American Heart Association encourages Hands-Only™ CPR for untrained rescuers or any rescuer who is unwilling or unable to give breaths. If an adult collapses and you can’t wake the person, call 9-1-1 and start chest compressions. Place the heel of your hand in the center of the chest. Place your other hand on top and interlace your fingers. You’ll want to push hard and fast. If an automated external defibrillator is available, use it. All you need to do is turn it on and follow the prompts..

By dedicating one day to training, you can become proficient and confident in CPR and AED (automated external defibrillator). For more information, visit www.heart.org/cpr.

Why Hands-Only CPR?

  • To ease concerns about mouth-to-mouth contact. Many people don’t want to put their mouth on a stranger’s mouth.
  • To focus the rescue time. Researchers found that it took about 16 seconds for a rescuer to deliver two full breaths. 
  • To simplify the process. Many people were so afraid they would “get it wrong” that they did nothing.
  • Any attempt at CPR is better than no attempt. Hands-OnlyTM CPR performed by a bystander has been shown to be as effective as conventional CPR with mouth-to-mouth breaths in the first few minutes of an out-of-hospital sudden cardiac arrest in adults.

When is CPR needed? And how do you do CPR?
CPR is most successful when administered as quickly as possible, but you must first determine if it's necessary. It should only be done when a person is unresponsive and not breathing or not breathing normally.

Reading about CPR and learning when it's needed will give you a basic understanding of the concept and procedure, but the American Heart Association strongly recommends that you take a CPR course. If CPR is needed, using the correct technique will give someone the best chance of recovery. Find a CPR course in your area now.
First, determine that it's safe to approach the person and secure the area for CPR. For instance, if someone is injured in an accident on a busy highway, you need to be out of danger from oncoming traffic before you start CPR. Or if someone may have been electrocuted, you need to be sure that he or she is no longer in contact with electricity before you start CPR. (In this example, turn off the power or a circuit breaker first.)

Next, check for responsiveness and breathing. Quickly evaluate whether the person is responsive. Look for things such as eyes opening, attempts to speak or other signs of intentional movement of the arms and legs. In infants and younger kids, tap their foot and call their name. In older kids and adults, test for responsiveness by gently shaking the shoulders and asking the person if he or she is all right.

Yell for help and call for emergency assistance. Remember to call for emergency medical assistance (dial 9-1-1) or get someone to do this. Have someone get an AED. If no one can help, call 911 and get an AED yourself. Use it when you get it.

The next step is to check the victim’s breathing. If you can't determine whether someone is breathing, begin CPR and continue until help arrives.

Don’t give up!
People have been kept alive with CPR because the rescuers simply didn’t quit!  Recently, 54-year-old Howard Snitzer was kept alive for 96 minutes with CPR after he suffered a massive heart attack.  The people around him took turns pumping his lifeless body until help finally arrived to their remote location.

Taking a CPR course could help you save the life of someone you love or a stranger.  The more of us who know what to do, the better the chances we all have of living long and healthy lives.

Learn more:

This content was last reviewed on 11/14/2014.

 Cardiac Arrest


Hands-Only CPR

Two Steps To Save A Life

Hands-Only CPR can be as effective as CPR with breaths. Watch the demo video and learn how to save a life in 60 seconds.