Learn how to save a life using CPR and a defibrillator –

When the stakes are this high, don’t think twice, just try – is one message of Restart a Heart Day 2018 which urges us all to learn how to save a life.


Without CPR the chances of surviving cardiac arrest are nil. Doing your best is always better than doing nothing.


By performing CPR and using a defibrillator until the emergency services arrive, you can actually double the victim’s chances of survival. In fact, even better than that – the chances of survival without a defibrillator is about 6% – using a defibrillator within 3 minutes, if they are in a shock able rhythm – can increase their chances from 6% to 74%!


In 2017, a staggering 195,000 young people were trained in life saving CPR as part of the Restart a Heart Day. This year the aim of the collective of organisations such as the Resuscitation Council UK, us at First Aid for Life and the British Heart Foundation is to train over 200,000.


Fatal figures


Around 30,000 people each year suffering a sudden cardiac arrest outside of hospital each year, yet British Heart Foundation figures say the survival rate is less than 1 in 10.


A cardiac arrest can affect anyone at any time – from young children at school, to adults when they’re at home, work or out in public places. Without immediate intervention, cardiac arrests are usually fatal.


However, the chance of surviving a cardiac arrest jumps from a mere 6% to an incredible 74% if the casualty is in a ‘shockable’ rhythm and a defibrillator is deployed within 3 minutes.




A defibrillator or AED is an automatic device, simple enough to be used by the public, which shocks the heart back into its normal rhythm during cardiac arrest.


For every minute without CPR and defibrillation, a person’s chance of survival drops by about 10%. Minutes matter.


Defibrillators can be the difference between life and death. It is vital you know how to use one.


For those wary of making the patient worse, the good news is you cannot use a defibrillator if the patient doesn’t need it. The machine simply won’t let you.


Awareness saves lives


It is imperative that bystanders know how to respond to a medical emergency.


In countries better equipped to recognise and react to cardiac arrests, survival rates are three times higher, according to the British Heart Foundation.


The good news is public awareness of defibrillators is growing in the UK. High street supermarket Morrison’s has installed defibrillators in all their stores and supported training for 2,300 employees, following a £500,000 donation from the Morrisons Foundation. Most of the other larger supermarkets have them too and they can also be found in tube stations, bus depots, train stations, dental surgeries and theme parks. Villages often have them installed in old phone boxes or on the wall of the village hall and they are thankfully now far more accessible.


They are universally signposted using one of the following signs: Defibrillators and AEDs

AED Sign


Councillors in South Oxfordshire are campaigning to provide all new large housing developments of more than 75 homes with an on-site publicly available defibrillator as standard.

community AED

A collaboration between British Heart Foundation, NHS England, NHS Scotland and Microsoft aims to roll out a comprehensive map of public defibrillator locations, so that the public can access them quickly and the emergency services can give directions to them in 999 phone calls.


In some villages and towns the traditional red telephone box has been converted into mini-medical centre by being repurposed to house a Public Access Defibrillator. British Telecom and the Community Heartbeat Trust Charity have joined forces to convert as many phone boxes as possible in their ‘Adopt a Kiosk Scheme.’


Defibrillators in sport


Dr Rosena Allin-Khan, Shadow Minister for Sport, has spoken of her campaign to have defibrillator at every football match in the UK. Meanwhile the British Heart Foundation and the Football Association have joined forces to get defibrillator installed at grassroots and amateur football clubs in England.


This makes sense since research shows over 90% of sudden cardiac arrest in young athletes happen during or just after exercise. Those with an inherited heart condition are three times as likely to sudden cardiac arrest during strenuous exercise.




Would you know how to respond if you came across someone who wasn’t breathing and was unconscious?


Follow these six simple steps to save a life:


Step One: Gently shake the unconscious person by the shoulder to check for a response. Meanwhile shout for help


adult, look, listen and feel


Step Two: Check their breathing. Gently lift their head back and tilt the chin to open their airway. There should be at least two normal breaths in 10 seconds – if you are unsure, or the breaths are not normal – assume they are NOT breathing.


adult - tilt head and lift chin

Step Three: Call 999, put your phone on loudspeaker so your hands are free to perform CPR. The operator can talk you through this.


When to call an ambulance


Step Four: Give 30 chest compressions by putting the heel of your hand in the centre of their chest. Put your other hand on top and interlock the fingers. Using straight arms, push your hands firmly and evenly down on the breastbone so the chest is pressed down 5-6 cm and release. You need to give 100-120 chest compressions per minute, roughly 2 per second.


adult chest compressions


Step Five: Open the airway by tilting the head back. Pinch the soft part of the person’s nose closed. Take a normal breath, make a seal around their mouth and breathe out steadily into the person’s mouth. The person’s chest should rise and fall. Repeat the breath. The two breaths should take no longer than 5 seconds.


adult mouth to mouth

Step Six: Repeat until the ambulance arrives. When you call 999 they can tell you where the nearest public access defibrillator is. The defibrillator comes with clear instructions to follow. Remember you can’t do any harm using a defibrillator as it will only deliver a shock when needed.


community AED



Click here to read our article explaining how the defibrillator (AED) works and why it saves lives.


Click here to read our full article about giving CPR and why breaths remain important if you are confident to give them.



First Aid for Life is a multi-award-winning, fully regulated first aid training provider. Our trainers are highly experienced medical, health and emergency services professionals who will tailor the training to your needs. Courses for groups or individuals at our venue or yours.

First Aid for life provides this information for guidance and it is not in any way a substitute for medical advice. First Aid for Life is not responsible or liable for any diagnosis made, or actions taken based on this information.

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