CPR: What You Need to Know

CPR: What You Need to Know

Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) used to be referred to more often in the past. Today, the rapid response of medical personnel as well as available automatic life saving defibrillation units mitigate the use of CPR life saving techniques. Yet, each year many people are saved by CPR which is one of the easiest ways to keep someone breathing until help arrives. 

There are some basic steps you may read here and use someday as well as more involved training techniques if you want to learn them. Either way, simply knowing how to handle a CPR emergency situation could be some of the most valuable information you ever learn. Take a moment to become another person someone else’s life can rely on.

Sobering Stats

When the human body is deprived of oxygen, a life-saving race against time must kick in for a survival attempt. If panic takes over the situation, time will drag on and chances of living will diminish exponentially. These are some statistics that may raise an eyebrow or two and might also convince you to take action. 

According to the professional training site ProCPR, it is imperative to immediately start CPR when someone stops breathing as the following rapidly occurs:

  • 0-4 minutes: brain damage is not likely; chances of survival and health high
  • 4-6 minutes: brain damage could occur; reaching the beginning of brain death
  • 6-10 minutes: brain damage is likely; the person may suffer ongoing issues after being resuscitated
  • 10+ minutes: brain death is likely to occur; very slim chance of a person regaining consciousness or surviving at all

CPR online training site Certification HQ adds:

  • More than 350,000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests occur in the United States per year, out of which 70% happen inside homes
  • 90 percent of people who suffer cardiac arrest die prior to reaching a hospital or medical care facility.
  • Effective CPR provided by a bystander in the first few minutes of cardiac arrest can increase the chances of survival by 2x or 3x
  • Less than 20 percent Americans are equipped to perform CPR during a medical emergency situation.

Women and People of Color – It is also shown that women are more likely to have a lower chance of survival than men during a cardiac event that requires CPR. This is because bystanders are reluctant to perform CPR, which requires chest compressions, due to women having breasts which may risk a sexual harassment situation. In addition, African American and Hispanic communities risk a low survival rate during an out-of-home-cardiac-arrest or OOHCA due to less people being educated in CPR as well as cultural bias that may prevent life-saving action.


The purpose of CPR is to continue what would be the normal flow of blood to the brain and heart. This flow maintains much needed oxygen, which is still abundant, throughout a person’s system for a short while after they stop breathing. CPR has shown to be able to elongate the electric shock effects after a defibrillator is administered making the combination more effective than just the defibrillator alone.

These are some medical emergencies which may require CPR intervention.

  • Heart attack
  • Electric shock
  • Allergic reactions of severe nature
  • Drowning
  • Suffocation
  • Drug overdose


When someone experiences an emergency that may require CPR you will need to determine some things first. 

According to the Red Cross:

  • Check the scene for safety, form an initial impression, use personal protective equipment (PPE)
  • If the person appears unresponsive, check for responsiveness, breathing, life-threatening bleeding or other life-threatening conditions using shout-tap-shout
  • If the person does not respond and is not breathing or only gasping, CALL 9-1-1 and get equipment, or tell someone to do so
  • Place the person on their back on a firm, flat surface
  • Give 30 chest compressions 

Hand position: Two hands centered on the chest

Body position: Shoulders directly over hands; elbows locked

Depth: At least 2 inches

Rate: 100 to 120 per minute

Allow chest to return to normal position after each compression

  • Give 2 breaths
  • Open the airway to a past-neutral position using the head-tilt/chin-lift technique

Each breath lasts 1 second, makes chest rise, allows air to exit before next breath

Note: If the 1st breath does not cause the chest to rise, re-tilt the head and ensure a proper seal before giving the 2nd breath If the 2nd breath does not make the chest rise, an object     may be blocking the airway.

  • Continue giving sets of 30 chest compressions and 2 breaths. Use an AED [defibrillator] as soon as one is available.

A word on mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Mouth-to-mouth resuscitation used to be a major part of CPR but some have revised the technique. It is considered more important to concentrate on chest compressions so as to fully utilize the leftover oxygenated blood. This, rather than barely get any oxygen into the system through mouth-to mouth. Not to mention that there is a major health concern when transferring potential pathogens through mouth-to mouth. If you take a training course this will be explored further.

These steps show the quick way to attempt CPR, however committing to a training course is essential. There are many opportunities in your community to take CPR and you can start by calling your local hospital, police or fire department to search for the best course that fits your schedule. Don’t let this simple training pass you by as only about twenty-percent of people know how to perform this life saving technique.