Pulse checking

Responding to a cardiac arrest

How to respond to a Sudden Cardiac Arrest

If someone nears you suddenly collapses and has:

Then urgent treatment is required to ensure blood flow around the body is restored, and the heart begins beating again.

What to do if you think someone is having a cardiac arrest?

The acronym DRS ABCD (or Doctor’s ABCD) is commonly used to help you remember what to do during a medical emergency. Please work through the following steps:


Check for Danger: Ensure the area is safe for yourself, others and the patient before proceeding


Check for Response: Squeeze shoulders of the patient. Ask loudly; “Are you alright? What’s your name?”

If there is no response:


Send for Help: Call Triple Zero (000) for an ambulance. Ask a bystander for help to bring an AED.


Check their Airway: Open the patient’s mouth. Check if airway is clear by tilting head and lifting chin. If visible foreign item is present, place patient on their side and remove foreign items with fingers.


Check for normal Breathing: Look, listen and feel.
If the patient’s breathing is not normal, start CPR


Start CPR: Push hard and fast. 30 chest compressions followed by 2 rescue breaths (if able).


Defibrillation: Attach AED (Automated External Defibrillator) as soon as available. Follow voice prompts.

Remember DRS ABC! You can save a life.

Over 15,000 Australians suffer a cardiac arrest outside of hospital every year. Sadly, the survival rate from a cardiac arrest is only 10% which is why the first 3-5 minutes holds the key to survival. To learn more about CPR and AEDs, and to access free posters, please take a look at our detailed guides below.

Acknowledgement of Country

The Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute acknowledges Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures; and to Elders past and present.

Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute - The Home of Heart Research for 30 Years