LDS Emergency Preparedness

Be Prepared, Not Scared!

What to Do When You’re a CPR Bystander

Posted by Elise on October 29, 2012

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Let’s say that you’re at the mall, the library, a sports arena or some other public place, and a stranger suddenly collapses and is lying motionless on the ground.

If someone nearby rushes to this victim’s aid and begins performing CPR, you might think to yourself, A hero has arrived. This person has the situation under control. Clearly, I don’t need to jump in here and interfere. And you might walk away.

But actually this is the wrong decision.

A recent study found that when a person goes into sudden cardiac arrest, his or her odds of survival increase substantially when two—and even three—people help out during the emergency.

You might be wondering, But if someone is already performing CPR, what else is there to do?

A whole lot, as it turns out!


There really is power in numbers when it comes to boosting survival rates. Japanese researchers analyzed cases of people who went into sudden cardiac arrest anywhere but in a hospital and found…

  • When just one person stopped to help, only 3% of those victims were still alive a year later.
  • When two people offered assistance, the survival rate was higher—4%.
  • When three or more people came to a victim’s aid, the rate was even better—6%.

There are many ways that bystanders can help during a sudden cardiac arrest emergency—even if they’re not the ones actually performing CPR, said lead study author Hideo Inaba, MD, PhD.


For example, here are some ways that Dr. Inaba suggests helping out…

1. Call 911. If the person performing CPR has not already done this or if you’re not sure whether he or she has, call the emergency number to make sure that an ambulance is on the way. The 911 dispatcher also may be able to provide CPR coaching over the phone if the other person needs help.

2. Flag down another person. Grab, ideally, a police officer, since he or she is used to dealing with emergencies…can quickly call for more help…and likely is familiar with the premises. You also can ask if anyone nearby happens to be a doctor, nurse or EMT. But having any third person around—whatever his or her profession—is helpful. As the study found, three or more rescuers boost survival rates the most, and this person can help you with either step 3 or 4 (or both).

3. Find an automated external defibrillator (AED). If you have a smartphone, download the free app ShowNearby AED  right now (before an emergency strikes), because it uses your current location to determine the closest AED. It’ll tell you exactly how far away it is and show you where it is on a map. If you don’t have a smart phone, look for an AED and ask people nearby if they know where one is. To use the AED properly, follow the instructions on the device.

4. Assist the person doing CPR. Help the person position the victim onto a smooth, flat surface if he isn’t already on one. Count along to make sure that the person is performing chest compressions using the correct pace and depth.  Offer soothing words of encouragement to the person performing CPR, because support is likely to help keep the rescuer calm. If the person performing CPR starts getting tired, take turns until the ambulance arrives.

Source: Hideo Inaba, MD, PhD, professor and chairman, department of emergency medical science, Graduate School of Medicine, Kanazawa University, Kanazawa, Japan. His study was published in Resuscitation.

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