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CPR (8 and older) and Automated External Defibrillator

Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is used when a person isn’t breathing or a person’s heartbeat has stopped. CPR alternates chest compressions with rescue breathing. This acts in place of the lungs and heart. A CPR class can teach you the right way to reproduce the heart’s pumping action. The information below gives you the basics of CPR. It is not intended to replace professional instruction.

When performing CPR, focus on giving chest compressions. Alternate with rescue breathing only if you’re trained in CPR and are comfortable doing the rescue breathing part. Research has found that when done correctly, chest compressions alone are just as effective.

An automated electronic defibrillator (AED) is a small rescue machine. It detects the heart rhythm of a person who has suddenly collapsed or is unconscious. If needed, the AED delivers electric shocks to the person’s heart to start it beating again. AEDs are often found in public places. These include daycare centers, schools, offices, airports, and shopping malls. When available and used, an AED along with CPR can save a person’s life.

Image showing a person receiving chest compressions.

Person giving mouth to mouth

Step 1.  Check if the person can respond

  • Tap or gently shake the person. In a loud voice ask, “Are you OK?”

  • If the person responds, stay with him or her. Keep the person comfortable and warm until emergency rescuers arrive­.

Step 2. Call 911

  • If the person does not respond, or is not breathing or is only gasping, call 911 right away.

  • If other people are with you, have one of them call 911. Someone should also try to find an automated external defibrillator (AED), if available. In the meantime, you should begin CPR right away.

  • If you’re alone and have a phone available, call 911.

    • If you know an AED is nearby, get it quickly and bring it back to where the victim is.  Attach the AED and follow its voice prompts (step 5). Give one shock. Then start CPR (step 3).

    • If an AED is not available, start CPR (step 3) right away while help is on the way.

Step 3. Begin chest compressions

  • Lay the person on his or her back on a firm surface.

  • Kneel next to the person.

  • Locate where to place your hands: Imagine a line that runs between the person’s nipples.

  • Place the heel of one hand on the breastbone in the center of the imaginary line. Place your other hand on top of the first hand. Lift your fingers so that just the heels of your hands are doing the work.

  • Position your shoulders over your hands. Keep your shoulders, elbows, and hands aligned. Use your body weight to help you push straight down. Keep your elbows locked.

  • Compress the chest to a depth of at least 2 inches. Don’t be alarmed if you hear and feel popping and snapping. The person’s bones and cartilage are moving from the weight of your compressions.

  • Allow the person’s chest to come back up after each compression. This allows the heart to refill with blood. Don’t take your hands away from the person’s chest. Keep the heels of your hands in place during compressions.

  • Give 30 compressions. Push hard, push fast (at a rate of at least 100 compressions per minute).

  • If you’re trained in CPR and can perform rescue breaths, now is the time to do so (see step 4). Continue with the cycle of 30 compressions and 2 rescue breaths until help arrives or the person breathes, coughs, or moves.

  • If you do not know how or prefer not to give rescue breaths, continue doing compressions until the person shows signs of movement, the AED is on hand (see step 5), or emergency rescuers take over.

Step 4. Begin rescue breathing

  • Open the person’s airway: Put one hand on the person’s forehead. With your other hand, put two fingers under the person’s chin and tilt the head upward. This keeps the airway open.

  • Take a normal breath (not a deep breath). Pinch the person’s nose shut. Place your mouth over the person’s open mouth. 

  • Give 1 slow breath. The breath should last 1 second (in your mind, count “one one-thousand”).

  • Check if the person’s chest rises:

    • If the chest rises, air has gone into the lungs. Let the person exhale. If the person responds by breathing, coughing, or moving, do not give chest compressions. Keep the person comfortable and warm until help arrives.

    • If the chest does not rise, air has not entered the person’s lungs. The airway may be blocked. Remove your mouth from the person’s mouth, and tilt the person’s head again.

    • Give another slow breath.

    • If the person’s chest still does not rise, resume chest compressions.

Continue with the cycle of 30 compressions and 2 rescue breaths until the person shows signs of movement, the AED is on hand (see step 5), or emergency rescuers take over.

Use a protective facemask during rescue breathing, if available. There are many kinds of facemasks. Follow the specific instructions that come with the mask you will use.

Step 5. Using an AED

  • Make sure the victim and you are in a dry area. If not, move the person to a dry and firm place.

  • Remove the person’s clothing from the chest and abdomen. A woman’s bra must be removed or cut. If needed, wipe the chest dry.

  • Turn on the AED. Follow its voice prompts:

    • Apply the pads to the person’s chest. Follow the pictures on the instructions that come with the AED.

    • Do not touch the person while the AED analyzes the person’s heart rhythm.

    • The AED will deliver a shock if needed. (Some AEDs will tell you to press a button to deliver the shock.)

    • Resume CPR for 2 minutes. (Do not remove the chest pads. The AED will continue to analyze the person’s heart rhythm.)

  • If the person responds, stay with him or her. Keep the person comfortable and warm until help arrives.

  • If the person doesn’t respond, resume CPR as prompted by the AED. Continue to follow the AED prompts to deliver shocks and perform CPR. Do this until the person moves or emergency rescuers take over.

Content based on 2010 American Heart Association CPR guidelines.


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