Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), automated external defibrillator (AED) use and basic life support (BLS) are essential, lifesaving skills that everyone should know. Understanding these skills and being prepared to act in an emergency can help save lives.
What is CPR?
CPR stands for cardiopulmonary resuscitation. It is a procedure performed when someone’s breathing or heartbeat has stopped. It is a very important lifesaving skill to know. CPR involves:
- Chest compressions – Using hands to press hard and fast over the center of the chest to pump blood and oxygen when the heart stops beating normally.
- Rescue breaths (optional) – Providing breaths to the victim after checking that the airway is clear. This provides oxygen.
- AED use – Applying an automated external defibrillator to restart the heart’s normal rhythm if the heart has stopped beating.
Performing CPR helps provide oxygenated blood to the body’s vital organs like the brain when circulation stops due to cardiac arrest. CPR can keep someone alive until more advanced emergency care arrives.
What is an Automated External Defibrillator (AED)?
An AED is a portable electronic device that automatically diagnoses life-threatening heartbeat irregularities. It can deliver an electric shock to restart the heart into a normal rhythm. AEDs are designed to be simple so that anyone can use them in an emergency after brief training as it’s one of the most important lifesaving skills to know.
What is Basic Life Support (BLS)?
Basic life support refers to maintaining breathing and circulation without using equipment other than a protective device like a face shield. BLS skills include performed with chest compressions and ventilations.
BLS is used for victims unresponsive and not breathing normally. After checking for safety and doing a scene survey, the steps of BLS are:
- Call for emergency help
- Check for responsiveness
- Check for breathing
- Provide CPR and AED if needed
- Care for any injuries
- Keep monitoring vitals until advanced help arrives
BLS forms the foundation for saving lives in many emergencies.
Importance of Training
Taking CPR, AED, and BLS training is critical. These skills can mean the difference between life and death for someone in cardiac arrest. So it is essential that everyone shall know these lifesaving skills.
Almost 90% of people who suffer an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest die due to not receiving CPR quickly enough. Chances of survival drop by 10% for every minute without CPR. Administering an AED within 3-5 minutes can increase survival chances by up to 70%.
But proper technique and timing are vital. Formal training gives you the ability to act confidently and save a life.
When performing CPR on an adult, follow these basic steps (3):
- Ensure the scene is safe.
- Check for responsiveness. Yell for help.
- Call 911 or ask someone to call.
- Position the victim on their back. Open the airway by tilting the head back slightly and lifting the chin.
- Check for normal breathing. Listen and feel for breath against your cheek for 5-10 seconds.
- If not breathing, begin chest compressions. Place the heel of one hand on the center of the chest. Place the other hand on top and interlace fingers.
- Keeping arms straight, push hard and fast. Compress chest 2 inches deep at a rate of 100-120 compressions per minute.
- After 30 compressions, open the airway again and give 2 rescue breaths. Pinch nose, seal mouth with yours, and blow until the chest rises.
- Continue cycles of 30 compressions and 2 breaths until help arrives. Have someone bring an AED if available.
- Follow AED voice instructions when ready to apply.
Using an AED
AEDs provide simple audio and visual commands that guide the rescuer through applying the pads and allow the device to analyze the heart rhythm and deliver a shock to restart it if needed. Follow these general steps:
- Turn the AED on. Follow the instructions.
- Apply the pads to the victim’s bare chest as pictured. Make sure no one is touching the person.
- Allow the AED to analyze the heart rhythm. No one should touch the victim.
- If a shock is indicated, the AED will say “Shock advised” or “Deliver shock now.” Ensure no one is touching the person, and push the shock button.
- Continue CPR and follow AED prompts. AEDs will repeat rhythm analyses and deliver additional shocks if needed.
CPR, AED, and BLS guidelines are adjusted for infants, children, pregnant women, and drowning victims. Training will cover techniques for different ages and situations. Key differences include:
- Infants – Use two fingers for chest compressions at a depth of 1.5 inches
- Children – Use one hand for compressions at 2 inches deep
- Special hand placement for infants and children
- No AED use for infants under age 1
- Alternative AED pad placements for children
- Rescue breaths are crucial for children and infants
Taking a skills-based course gives hands-on practice for different scenarios. Regular re-training ensures you remember the proper techniques and latest guidelines.