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Step Up and Save a Life: Knowing the Proper CPR Steps

Mackenzie Thompson

by Mackenzie, Life Saver, NHCPS

Co-authored by Karl Disque, D.O. RPH

posted on Mar 29, 2023 at 12:12 pm

emergency-medical-technicians-carrying -first-aid-toolsAccording to the National Institutes of Health, cardiac arrest causes more deaths each year than lung cancer, breast cancer, and HIV/AIDS combined. It is also reported that out-of-hospital cardiac arrest (OHCA) has a minimal survival rate of 12 percent. Moreover, only about 46 percent of individuals who suffer cardiac arrest outside of a hospital receive bystander CPR, which is unfortunate.

Misinformation about cardiac arrest, whether it affects an infant, child, or adult, contributes to this statistic. However, the truth is straightforward: understanding the correct CPR steps can significantly increase the chances of saving a life during any emergency. In fact, there are seven fundamental life-saving actions that can make all the difference in the world for someone’s survival.

Should You Start CPR Steps Immediately?

Before assisting individuals experiencing respiratory or cardiac arrest, it is essential to prioritize your own safety. So, ensure the safety of the scene before immediately initiating CPR steps.  No matter how well-intentioned, attempting to help in an unsafe environment could result in further loss of life. The safety check should be tailored to the incident’s location.

In some cases, the emergency can take place near a traffic accident, so ensure that traffic has come to a halt before administering aid. If the emergency involves a downed power line, it is critical to be aware that the person in distress may still be in contact with the current. To avoid electrocution, it is necessary to use a non-conductive object, such as a wooden board, to move the line away from the individual in need of aid.

If you suspect that someone is drowning, remove them from the water and place them on a stable surface. According to the CDC, over 4,000 people in the U.S. died due to unintentional drownings between 2011 and 2020, and this number is only growing. If the individual shows signs of drowning, initiate CPR steps as you would in any other emergency. As always, stay aware of your surroundings and take precautions to ensure your safety while providing assistance.

Once you have ensured the safety of the surroundings, CPR steps should be performed.

1. Train to Recognize Emergency Situations

Recognizing emergencies is crucial for survival, especially in cases of sudden cardiac arrest which can occur without warning. One of the biggest challenges of bystander CPR is the common misconception that people will always ask for help. It’s important to understand that anyone who collapses suddenly, experiences chest pain or tightness, or suffers from trauma may need CPR. By being able to identify these warning signs and responding quickly with CPR steps, bystanders can play a critical role in saving lives.

The universal sign of choking is the act of clenching one’s throat, and immediate action is crucial to prevent brain damage or even mortality due to lack of oxygen. Even if the person is not experiencing cardiac arrest, time is of the essence. If you suspect someone is choking, it’s important to act quickly. Assess the situation and if necessary, begin the steps for performing CPR to assist the person. It’s always better to err on the side of caution and take immediate action when faced with an emergency.

2. Call EMS (Emergency Medical Services)

In case of an emergency, calling 911 immediately is critical. Thanks to the widespread availability of cell phones, calling for help has become easier. However, in some areas, there may be limited cellular access to dial 911 from the location of the incident. In such cases, it’s important to instruct someone else to call for help. If you find yourself alone and a person collapses or experiences medical distress, it’s crucial to act quickly. Yell as loudly as possible to attract the attention of others nearby and seek help as soon as possible.

3. Examine if the Person is Breathing

After assessing the situation, the next steps in CPR involve the actual work of performing CPR, which includes checking the person’s breathing. The lack of breathing could indicate several possible conditions, including choking, cardiac arrest, or a severe allergic reaction. To check for breathing, place the side of your face against the person’s nose and mouth. In under five seconds, observe, listen, and feel for any signs of breathing. This step is critical to determining the appropriate next steps for providing life-saving care.

  • Observe for any sound of air moving in and out of the person’s nose and mouth.
  • Watch for any movement or rise of the chest as the person breathes.
  • Place your cheek near the person’s nose and mouth and feel for any sensation of air blowing against your skin.

If the emergency involves a still conscious, but choking victim, you can skip the step of checking for breathing. Instead, examine the inside of a person’s mouth to see if the object causing the obstruction has been dislodged.

4. Give 30 Immediate Chest Compressions

To perform effective chest compressions, aim for a rate of 100 compressions per minute. Now, this might be a difficult task to evaluate especially in a stressful situation, but certain rhythms of songs may be of help here for you. The classic rhythm for the CPR chest compressions is considered the same as the song “Stayin’ Alive” by the Bee Gees, but if this is something you are less acquainted with, use the “Baby shark” rhythm instead. Even if you don’t have formal CPR training, you can use these songs as a guide by pushing down hard into the victim’s chest with each beat until you have performed 30 compressions. Delaying chest compressions can lead to brain damage and cellular death, so the recommendation is to start compressions immediately on anyone who suddenly loses consciousness or appears not to have a pulse.

To assess a pulse, responders should do so in less than five seconds. The quickest way to check is by placing the index and middle finger on the groove at the side of the neck to feel for the carotid pulse. It is located beside Adam’s apple. Even if a weak pulse is detected, starting CPR chest compressions is advised. In cases of choking, the process differs slightly. If the person is conscious, administer abdominal thrusts by reaching around the person, forming a fist with one hand, grasping it with the other, and pulling upwards and hard into the person’s abdomen until the food is dislodged. Proceed with CPR steps only in cases when consciousness is lost.

5. Clear the Victim’s Airway

Losing consciousness can indicate imminent death, as the brain can only survive for four to six minutes without oxygen. Unconsciousness can result from various causes, including trauma, chronic health problems, or sudden stress, each of which poses a risk of cardiac arrest. Once initial compressions are performed, it is necessary to open the victim’s airway, which can be easily achieved through the head-tilt, jaw-thrust maneuver. Simply grasp the person’s chin and pull it slightly out and upward. Some CPR guidelines suggest performing this step only if rescue breaths are unsuccessful, but it takes only a second to perform and can save valuable time when facing imminent death.

This holds true irrespective of the emergency type or cause of cardiac arrest. To check for breathing, position your face within one inch of the person’s mouth and nose and observe, listen and feel for any signs of breath. However, if the emergency involves a conscious choking victim, skip this step and instead look inside the person’s mouth to determine if the object causing the obstruction has been dislodged.

6. Provide 2 Breaths

Make an effort to administer two rescue breaths, with each breath lasting for a second. Rescue breaths can be delivered mouth-to-mouth or mouth-to-nose, making it possible to save someone even if they have suffered severe injuries to either. When giving mouth-to-mouth rescue breaths, it is important to also pinch the person’s nose. In the case of infants and small children, cover both the nose and mouth of the child with your mouth to deliver the rescue breaths.

The use of rescue breaths involves using the remaining oxygen in your exhaled breath to provide relief to someone experiencing distress. If the rescue breaths are unsuccessful in entering the person’s airway, and the obstruction is not caused by choking, attempt to reposition the head and tongue by re-tilting the head and/or performing a jaw thrust. This can be done by grasping the person’s chin and gently pulling it out and upward.

If you find yourself unable to deliver rescue breaths to the person, it is possible that they may have been choking without exhibiting any warning signs. In such situations, it is crucial to resume CPR steps. Although it may seem like a daunting task for one person, every step taken can significantly increase the person’s chances of survival. If there are other individuals nearby, enlist their assistance. Anyone can perform rescue breaths or chest compressions with your guidance. Having at least one person trained in CPR can equip an entire community to respond promptly in the event of an emergency.

7. Repeat the process until aid arrives

The last step to keep in mind is to continue performing the CPR cycle until professional medical assistance arrives. CPR involves repeating a cycle of 30 chest compressions followed by two rescue breaths. It is crucial not to abandon the person’s care until someone else is able to take over. Additionally, it is important to inform the first responders about what you observed and how long it has been since the person suffered cardiac arrest. While it may be difficult to provide an exact timeline, any information you can provide can aid first responders in their efforts to save the person’s life.

What Are the 5 Criteria to Make Your CPR Steps High-quality?

  1. ​​To make sure that you are performing chest compressions correctly, it’s important to maintain the appropriate depth. For an adult, the ideal chest compression depth is around two inches but should not exceed 2.4 inches.
  2. To ensure that your chest compressions are effective, it’s important to allow for chest recoil between each compression. This means that you should remove all force from the chest for a brief moment, allowing the chest to naturally rebound before beginning the next compression. However, it’s crucial that you don’t completely remove your hands from the person’s chest, as this can cause unnecessary delays in providing essential care. Remember, allowing for chest recoil is a critical aspect of performing high-quality chest compressions.
  3. If possible, it’s highly recommended to obtain an automated external defibrillator (AED) when providing CPR, as it is one of the most effective ways to save lives. In modern times, AEDs are becoming increasingly available in public and recreational locations such as schools, community centers, and shopping malls. They are usually easy to locate due to prominent signage. After a set of chest compressions and when someone else is administering rescue breaths, you should apply the AED pads. Most AEDs come with visual instructions for pad placement. Once you turn on the device, it will evaluate the heart’s electrical activity and provide guidance on when to avoid touching the person, when to clear for a shock, when to deliver a shock, and when to resume CPR.
  4. When administering rescue breaths, it’s important to provide enough air to inflate the lungs, but excessive ventilation can be harmful, particularly in cases where the person’s heart is not effectively pumping blood.
  5. In an emergency situation, it’s crucial to never stop performing CPR, as this is the most critical aspect of providing high-quality care. Continue performing CPR until either another person takes over or the person regains consciousness. However, even if the person regains consciousness, they will still need to be evaluated by a medical professional, so it’s important to stay with the person until help arrives. Remember, never give up on providing CPR in an emergency, as it could mean the difference between life and death

Potential Stroke Victims: How to Recognize and Respond

group-of-people-training-for-cprIt’s important to keep in mind that even if someone shows signs of a stroke, they may still be at risk for cardiac arrest. A stroke occurs when blood vessels in the brain become blocked, typically due to a blood clot or trapped air in the circulatory system. However, it can also be caused by cardiac arrest, or it may lead to cardiac arrest. Therefore, it’s essential to take the following steps when dealing with a conscious victim:

  • Check for any signs of facial paralysis by asking the person to smile.
  • Ask to repeat a simple phrase – the person with a stroke may have difficulty repeating.
  • Immediately activate emergency medical services (EMS).
  • Until help arrives, stay with the person.

It’s important to remember that taking prompt action and following these steps can significantly improve the person’s chances of survival.

CRP Steps Should be Accurate and Timely

Performing CPR is a demanding physical activity that can help people in respiratory distress or cardiac arrest survive until emergency medical services (EMS) arrive. While the specific steps of CPR may vary slightly depending on the person’s needs, such as someone who becomes unconscious while choking, they follow the same general guidelines. It doesn’t matter what your profession or personal aspirations are, obtaining CPR certification should be a top priority for everyone. If you’ve ever used CPR outside of work, we encourage you to share your experiences on our social media and spread awareness of these life-saving skills. Remember, enrolling in a CPR course can equip you with the knowledge and skills needed to respond effectively in an emergency.

Share your wisdom and thoughts in the comments below, or head on over to the discussion about this post on Facebook.

About Mackenzie

Mackenzie is a seasoned life saver and a multifaceted professional in the medical field. With an impressive 8-year track record in medical education, Mackenzie boasts a comprehensive set of certifications, including ACLS, PALS, BLS, and CPR, which reflect her unwavering commitment and expertise. Her significant contributions to teaching and the development of medical content underscore her profound knowledge and dedication to advancing healthcare.

Beyond her medical prowess, Mackenzie seamlessly integrates her passion for education with her proficiency in media and marketing. Her academic journey at Indiana University culminated in a degree in Media and Marketing, further solidifying her expertise in these domains.

In addition to her impressive professional achievements, Mackenzie possesses a refined taste for global exploration, photography, design aesthetics, sartorial elegance, and the culinary arts, with a particular affinity for Chinese cuisine. Currently based in the vibrant city of Manhattan, she continues to be a driving force in the medical community. She is an invaluable asset to, where she champions excellence and innovation with unwavering dedication.

Contact Mackenzie at [email protected]


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