Basic life support: First aid

As its “restart a heart” week, I thought it would be good to put the official CPR  guidance on this site.  First aid protocols are set by reference to the standards of the resuscitation council and to the current edition of the first aid guides produced by The St John Ambulance and the Red Cross.

You can look up the  Resuscitation Council here

SEQUENCE Technical description
SAFETY Make sure you, the victim and any bystanders are safe


RESPONSE Check the victim for a response

  • Gently shake his shoulders and ask loudly: “Are you all right?”

If he responds leave him in the position in which you find him, provided there is no further danger; try to find out what is wrong with him and get help if needed; reassess him regularly

AIRWAY Open the airway

  • Turn the victim onto his back
  • Place your hand on his forehead and gently tilt his head back; with your fingertips under the point of the victim’s chin, lift the chin to open the airway
BREATHING Look, listen and feel for normal breathing for no more than 10 seconds
In the first few minutes after cardiac arrest, a victim may be barely breathing, or taking infrequent, slow and noisy gasps. Do not confuse this with normal breathing. If you have any doubt whether breathing is normal, act as if it is they are not breathing normally and prepare to start CPR
DIAL 999 Call an ambulance (999)

  • Ask a helper to call if possible otherwise call them yourself
  • Stay with the victim when making the call if possible
  • Activate the speaker function on the phone to aid communication with the ambulance service
SEND FOR AED Send someone to get an AED if available
If you are on your own, do not leave the victim, start CPR
CIRCULATION Start chest compressions

  • Kneel by the side of the victim
  • Place the heel of one hand in the centre of the victim’s chest; (which is the lower half of the victim’s breastbone (sternum))
  • Place the heel of your other hand on top of the first hand
  • Interlock the fingers of your hands and ensure that pressure is not applied over the victim’s ribs
  • Keep your arms straight
  • Do not apply any pressure over the upper abdomen or the bottom end of the bony sternum (breastbone)
  • Position your shoulders vertically above the victim’s chest and press down on the sternum to a depth of 5–6 cm
  • After each compression, release all the pressure on the chest without losing contact between your hands and the sternum;
  • Repeat at a rate of 100–120 min-1
GIVE RESCUE BREATHS After 30 compressions open the airway again using head tilt and chin lift and give 2 rescue breaths

  • Pinch the soft part of the nose closed, using the index finger and thumb of your hand on the forehead
  • Allow the mouth to open, but maintain chin lift
  • Take a normal breath and place your lips around his mouth, making sure that you have a good seal
  • Blow steadily into the mouth while watching for the chest to rise, taking about 1 second as in normal breathing; this is an effective rescue breath
  • Maintaining head tilt and chin lift, take your mouth away from the victim and watch for the chest to fall as air comes out
  • Take another normal breath and blow into the victim’s mouth once more to achieve a total of two effective rescue breaths. Do not interrupt compressions by more than 10 seconds to deliver two breaths. Then return your hands without delay to the correct position on the sternum and give a further 30 chest compressions

Continue with chest compressions and rescue breaths in a ratio of 30:2

If you are untrained or unable to do rescue breaths, give chest compression only CPR (i.e. continuous compressions at a rate of at least 100–120 min-1)


  • Attach the electrode pads on the victim’s bare chest
  • If more than one rescuer is present, CPR should be continued while electrode pads are being attached to the chest
  • Follow the spoken/visual directions
  • Ensure that nobody is touching the victim while the AED is analysing the rhythm

If a shock is indicated, deliver shock

  • Ensure that nobody is touching the victim
  • Push shock button as directed (fully automatic AEDs will deliver the shock automatically)
  • Immediately restart CPR at a ratio of 30:2
  • Continue as directed by the voice/visual prompts

If no shock is indicated, continue CPR

  • Immediately resume CPR
  • Continue as directed by the voice/visual prompts
CONTINUE CPR Do not interrupt resuscitation until:

  • A health professional tells you to stop
  • You become exhausted
  • The victim is definitely waking up, moving, opening eyes and breathing normally

It is rare for CPR alone to restart the heart. Unless you are certain the person has recovered continue CPR

RECOVERY POSITION If you are certain the victim is breathing normally but is still unresponsive, place in the recovery position

  • Remove the victim’s glasses, if worn
  • Kneel beside the victim and make sure that both his legs are straight
  • Place the arm nearest to you out at right angles to his body, elbow bent with the hand palm-up
  • Bring the far arm across the chest, and hold the back of the hand against the victim’s cheek nearest to you
  • With your other hand, grasp the far leg just above the knee and pull it up, keeping the foot on the ground
  • Keeping his hand pressed against his cheek, pull on the far leg to roll the victim towards you on to his side
  • Adjust the upper leg so that both the hip and knee are bent at right angles
  • Tilt the head back to make sure that the airway remains open
  • If necessary, adjust the hand under the cheek to keep the head tilted and facing downwards to allow liquid material to drain from the mouth
  • Check breathing regularly

Be prepared to restart CPR immediately if the victim deteriorates or stops breathing normally

Basic life support

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