How to respond to a sudden cardiac arrest

How to Respond to a Sudden Cardiac Arrest Emergency

When you find someone who has collapsed and is unresponsive, chances are they have experienced a sudden cardiac arrest. Responding to this crisis can be done by remembering these three words:

Call. Push. Shock.

First, call 911, then immediately begin hard and fast chest compressions (CPR), and, if available, use an AED to determine if the person requires a shock to restart their heart.

According to, you can triple a victim’s chance of survival when you take these immediate lifesaving actions.

Let’s walk through each of those steps in greater detail.

1. Call 911

Call 911 or instruct someone nearby to do so. Assess the situation and follow any instructions provided by the dispatcher.

2. Push: Begin Hands-Only CPR

If the person remains unresponsive, begin Hands-Only CPR.

Kneel beside the unresponsive person, and interlace your hands with the heel of your bottom hand on the center of the victim’s chest.

When performing hands-only CPR, interlace your hands with the heel of your bottom hand on the center of the victim's chest.

With your shoulders directly above your hands, keep your arms straight as you use the weight of your body to push hard and fast on the person’s chest at the rate of 100-120 beats per minute.

The American Heart Association promotes the use of songs such as “Stayin’ Alive” by the Bee Gees“Hips Don’t Lie” by Shakira, or “Walk the Line” by Johnny Cash, which include this 100-120 beats per minute time. 

Compressions should be 2-inches deep, keeping in mind to allow the chest to rise in-between compressions.

Shock: Administer an AED, if available

If nearby, retrieve and turn on an AED.

Follow the step-by-step audio and/or visual instructions from the AED. The device will analyze whether the person is in a true cardiac arrest.

When prompted, clear any other bystanders, and step back before pressing the “Shock” button. If the AED is fully automatic, stand clear and allow the AED to work if it is advising a shock.

Follow prompts from the AED until paramedics arrive or another trained bystander takes over.

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