Cardiac arrest

In British Columbia, someone has a cardiac arrest every 2 hours. Early response and defibrillation are critical. When someone suffers a cardiac arrest, the use of CPR (Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation) and an AED (Automated External Defibrillator) in the first few minutes can more than double someone’s chances of survival.

Cardiac arrest is when the heart suddenly stops beating effectively. Signs of cardiac arrest include:

  • Sudden collapse
  • Unresponsiveness to touch or sound
  • No breathing, or abnormal breathing, or only gasping

AED maps


Compression-only CPR

Follow these steps for compression-only CPR:

  • Assess scene safety
  • Tap patient and shout to check for responsiveness. If unresponsive:
  1. Phone 911 and shout for an AED
  2. Push hard and fast in the centre of the chest (at least 5 cm deep and at a rate of 100-120 beats per minute)
  3. Use an AED if available. Follow the voice prompts
    - Continue using the AED and giving compressions until the person responds or medical help takes over

How to use an AED

During a cardiac arrest, follow the steps below. Remember that an Automatic External Defibrillator (AED) is easy to use and will tell you what to do. It can’t do any harm and it could save a life. When the AED arrives, use it immediately.

  1. Call 911
  2. Locate the nearest AED
  3. Power on the AED
  4. Follow the voice prompts
  5. Continue until medical help arrives or the person begins to respond. If they start to wake up, keep them calm and at rest.

The AED will use voice prompts to instruct the following:

  • Place two pads on the person’s bare chest. Pictures will show you where
  • Do not touch the person
  • The AED will analyze the heart rhythm and decide whether or not a shock is required
  • If a shock is needed, do not touch the patient
  • The AED will either count down and deliver the shock itself, or it may tell you to push a button
  • When the voice prompt tells you, resume CPR
  • The AED may cycle through these steps again. Listen to the prompts