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Cardiac arrest

A cardiac arrest happens when someone’s heart stops pumping blood around their body. They will lose responsiveness almost immediately and show no other signs of life, such as breathing or movement.

If you see someone having a cardiac arrest, you need to act quickly as they’ll only have a chance of surviving if they receive life saving first aid immediately.

You need to call 999 and give immediate CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation - see the video below).

You should also ask any bystanders to find a defibrillator (an automated external defibrillator – AED for short), which restarts the heart by giving an electric shock.

Lots of public places have them, including shopping centres, train stations, airports, offices and schools.

Watch our video - Adult CPR

What to look for - Cardiac arrest

There are three signs that someone has had a cardiac arrest:

  1. 1. Sudden loss of responsiveness
  2. 2. No breathing
  3. 3. No movement or other signs of life

What you need to do - Cardiac arrest

Call 999 or 112 straight away for medical help or ask a bystander to do it, so that you can start doing CPR sooner. Make sure you communicate with a specific person, so that no time is lost while people hesitate.

Is there a defibrillator available?

If there is a defibrillator, grab the AED or ask a specific person to get it for you and switch it on. It will then give you a series of visual and verbal prompts which you should follow until the ambulance arrives.

Adult AED defibrillator

If there isn’t a defibrillator, you need to start CPR straight away and carry on until:

• emergency help arrives and takes over

• the person starts showing signs of life and starts to breathe normally, or

• you are too exhausted to continue

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