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Know These 3 Steps to Become a Sudden Cardiac Arrest Home Hero

If a loved one experiences a sudden cardiac arrest at home, are you prepared to act? Here’s why you should be and what you should do.

Sudden cardiac arrest suffered outside the hospital is a leading cause of death in the U.S., claiming over 400,00 lives, annually. Of all outside-the-hospital sudden cardiac arrests, nearly 75% occur at home and only about 9% of victims survive. Greater awareness and training are needed.

Here are the steps you can take to become an at-home hero - ready, willing, and able to save a life.  

1.     Create an at-home response plan – and run drills

Since most sudden cardiac arrests occur in the home, you must be prepared to act. You, and any other family member present, are the true first-line responders, playing a critical role in the victim’s survival. Your intervention is key to bridging the care gap until emergency services arrive.

Take some time to discuss, write down, and rehearse your response plan and practice emergency drills. This will help you to act swiftly and confidently should an emergency strike.  

Note: You are rehearsing these steps at home but not actually performing them in full. For example, don’t call 911 if there’s not an actual emergency or perform CPR on a person who doesn’t need it. It could cause injury. Practice on common household items such as a firm pillow, couch cushion, stuffed animal or roll of paper towels.  The point of rehearsing is to run through the steps and reinforce what you’ll need to do.

2.     Know the signs of cardiac arrest

 What just happened? Did your family member just suffer a sudden cardiac arrest? The first major sign is loss of consciousness (fainting). The victim collapses because the heart stops pumping blood, cutting off oxygen to the brain. The victim will stop breathing and will have no pulse.

  • Gently shake the person and call out loudly to them to see if they respond. Check for signs of breathing or a pulse.  
  • If the person isn’t responding, isn’t breathing, and has no pulse, they’re in cardiac arrest. It’s time for you to act – quickly. 

3.     Follow these critical steps: Call. Push. Shock.

  • Call 911 to alert the emergency medical response. It will probably take several minutes for paramedics to arrive. Be sure to put your phone on speaker, so the 911 emergency operator may provide you with instructions for what to do in the meantime.  


  • Push: Start CPR. Time is critical. For each minute that CPR is not administered after a person is in sudden cardiac arrest, their chances of survival drop by about 10 percent. After 10 minutes, their chances of survival are nearly zero. Immediate CPR can improve the person’s survival chances by two to three times. 

Getting properly trained in CPR is highly important to ensure you deliver it effectively. However, you are not trained, attempting CPR is better than doing nothing. Again, if you’ve called 911, an emergency dispatcher should be able to guide you.

 Here are the key CPR steps:

1.     Make sure that the person is lying on their back on a solid surface.

2.     Position yourself directly at the person’s side, next to their upper chest.

3.     Lean over the person, keep your elbows locked so your arms are straight, and your hands are directly under your head.

4.     Place the heel of your dominant hand at the center of the person’s chest. Place your other hand directly on top of your bottom hand and interlock your fingers.  

5.     Push down firmly and quickly. Each compression should be at least two inches deep.  Perform two compressions per second (between 100-120 per minute). Continue until EMS arrives

  • Shock: Use an automated external defibrillator, or AED, in combination with CPR, if one is available. AEDs are designed for use by people without medical training and can be a key link in the survival chain because they are designed to shock the heart back into a normal rhythm.  Simply turn the AED on and follow the voice prompts.

Family members and caregivers should be trained to recognize the signs of cardiac arrest, receive formal CPR and AED training, establish a sudden cardiac arrest drill, and practice it at least yearly.  

With a little knowledge and practice, you’ll be ready to be a hero.

At Starting Hearts, we can provide you with training to make a life-saving difference.

Contact us for more information:

 About the author: Nathelia Bim in a nurse practitioner and healthcare writer based in Southern California