Statistics show that roughly 88% of cardiac arrests happen at home. In other words, you’re more likely to encounter a situation where you have to help save the life of a loved one, than simply passing by a similar situation on the street. Let that sink in for a moment. Then, ask yourself whether you are equipped.

In light of the recent CPR Awareness week, we’ll be looking at some basic CPR first aid tips and essential tools you need to get the beat back when you find yourself in an emergency where someone’s heart has stopped beating.

Heart attack versus cardiac arrest

First and foremost, many people don’t know the difference (or that there even is a difference) between a heart attack and sudden cardiac arrest.

The first occurs when the blood supply to a part of the heart muscle is blocked for whichever reason, whereas the latter is when electrical impulses in the heart become rapid or chaotic, which causes the heart to suddenly stop beating. A heart attack can, however, lead to cardiac arrest.

Why learn how to perform CPR?

A worrying statistic shows that only 32% of cardiac arrest casualties receive CPR from a bystander. In reality, if CPR is provided immediately after sudden cardiac arrest by an effective bystander, it can double or triple a victim’s chance of survival.

Emergencies that involve cardiac arrests happen more often than you think, and they definitely don’t only happen to elderly people. Many people who might appear healthy with no known heart disease or other risk factors can suffer from sudden cardiac arrest, indicating that it can happen to anyone at any time – irrespective of their age or assumed health status.

According to the American Heart Association, nearly 383 000 out-of-hospital sudden cardiac arrests occur annually and, as mentioned before, 88% of those occur at home.

The point is, CPR saves lives. It comforts loved ones knowing something is being done to give the casualty a chance of survival and it also makes organ transplants possible.

CPR for adults: What you need to know

CPR can be performed on casualties of all ages, but requires knowledge on what and what not to do depending on whether the casualty is a baby, a pregnant woman, an elderly person, etc.

The primary survey (assessment):

The aim of the primary survey is to find out whether the casualty is still alive.


  • Check for dangers to yourself and the casualty.
  • If you can remove any hazards safely, do so.
  • If you cannot remove the danger, move the casualty if possible.


  • Check responsiveness by tapping the casualty’s shoulders.
  • Ask a question like: “Are you alright?”
  • Give a command like: “Open your eyes”.
  • Check/scan for any movement of the chest.


  • Responsive casualty – introduce yourself as a First-Aider and offer help.
  • If the casualty is not responding, but breathing adequately, call for help immediately.
  • Call the emergency medical services. If there is somebody with you send for help immediately.

Technique for effective chest compressions:

  1. The casualty must lie on a hard flat surface.
  2. Locate the correct spot to do the chest compressions by placing the heel of your one hand on the breast bone (sternum) in the middle of the chest between the nipples. Place your second hand on top of the first hand.
  3. Interlock your fingers and keep them off the ribs.
  4. Press down (compress) at least 5cm, keeping your elbows straight.
  5. Release the pressure but do not take your hands off the chest.

Very important:

  • The pressure on the chest must be released completely between compressions.
  • Repeat this 30 times at a speed of 120 per minute then give two breaths.
  • This procedure can be very tiring for the first aider. Take care that exhaustion does not cause inadequate compression rates. When two or more rescuers are available, they can take turns. The “takeover” must take less than 5 seconds.

Do not stop CPR unless:

  • somebody supplies an Automated External Defibrillator (AED);
  • the EMS arrive to relieve you;
  • the casualty shows signs of life;
  • you are too exhausted to go on any longer.

Technique of effective rescue breaths

  1. Check for obvious obstructions in the mouth and remove them.
  2. Open the airway with the head tilt/chin lift method.
  3. If available, insert a resusci-aide.
  4. Close casualty’s nose by squeezing the soft parts of the nose with your fingers.
  5. Take a (normal) breath.
  6. Place your mouth over the casualty’s mouth and ensure a good seal.
  7. Breathe into the casualty’s mouth until you see the chest rise. This should take about one second.
  8. Lift your head, take a breath and give another breath (2 breaths in total).


If the chest does not rise after 2 breaths, check that:

  • the airway is not obstructed – look in the mouth. Do not probe in the mouth with your fingers if you cannot see anything — you might push the obstruction further down the throat;
  • the chin is lifted sufficiently to lift the tongue;
  • you have an airtight seal around the mouth;
  • you have closed the nose effectively to prevent air from escaping.

Open the airway and try 2 more ventilations. If you still cannot make the chest rise then give first aid for an obstructed airway.

CPR for children: What you need to know

The primary survey (assessment):

Hazards! Check for any hazards

Hello! Baby: tap under the feet/blow in the face | Child: tap on shoulders


Help! Call the ambulance.

Steps to follow:

  • Start IMMEDIATELY with 30 chest compressions at a speed of 120 per minute.


  • Do 30 compressions with 2 fingers, just below the nipple line (depth: 4cm)


  • Do 30 compressions with 1 hand on the breast bone, on the nipple line (depth: 5cm)
  • Be careful not to press on the very bottom end of the breast bone


  • Open the airway and give 2 ventilations (blows)


  • Open the airway carefully by lifting the jaw (neutral position/sniffing)
  • Put your mouth over the nose and mouth and give a puff (only the air in your mouth)


  • Lift the chin and tilt the head backwards, close the nose and blow a bit harder, until chest rises

Repeat cycles of 30 compressions and 2 blows until the child starts breathing or help arrives!

IMPORTANT: If you do not feel safe doing ventilations, you can just go on doing compressions.

Since four out of five cardiac arrests happen at home, the life you save through CPR is mostly likely to be a loved one such as a child, a spouse, a parent, or a friend. Can you afford not to educate yourself?

It’s extremely important to do a course where you can practice CPR with the help of a facilitator to make sure you’re doing it correctly. Other benefits of doing a course is that being a qualified first aider improves the quality of your CV and, for those already in the workplace, it helps your employer to make their company OHS compliant.

About Dynamikos

Dynamikos empowers people with the knowledge and tools to act in a life-threatening situation. Since April 2005, DYNAMIKOS TRAINING NETWORK CC has provided training to educational institutions and clients across the Cape Metropole and surrounding regions. Its high quality on-site training can be tailored to your unique needs and will certainly make a difference to your employees in their workplace and equip them with very necessary life skills.

Website: https://dynamikos.co.za/


  1. Dynamikos First Aid Level 1: November 2016
  2. CPR statistics: https://www.heart.org/