If you witnessed a family member or co-worker in cardiac arrest, would you know what to do? As November is CPR month, CPR knowledge and training is being encouraged more than ever. While increasing in popularity, a new study is shedding light on the fears and misconceptions individuals have performing CPR, and using an Automatic External Defibrillator (AED).

The Study

The national survey of 2,784 people commissioned by Dorling Kindersley Publishing and the UK’s St John Ambulance, St Andrew’s First Aid and British Red Cross, found that only 14% of people would respond in an emergency and administer CPR, leaving the overwhelming majority of people who stated they would rather call the emergency services than act themselves. The survey also showed that a mere 9% of bystanders would ask for help from others which is particularly concerning when you consider that most of us are much more likely to administer CPR on our immediate family. When asked what they would do if their own father collapsed, his heart had stopped and he was not breathing, only two in five people said that they would administer CPR; while the majority of family members would opt first to call the emergency services.

What are some of the other noteworthy stats that the survey revealed?

  • Most people are not comfortable with the idea of giving mouth-to-mouth and don’t understand when to use it
  • More than half of the people surveyed did not know when you should use a defibrillator
  • Two in three people (65%) believe that training is required before they can use a defibrillator
  • Most people said that they would not know how to use the AED and were nervous of causing more damage
  • Men were far more confident about using an AED (defibrillator), once the availability of instructions was pointed out, whereas women seem very reluctant to do so (53% v 29%)
AEDs are designed to be easy to use so that anyone, including untrained bystanders, can take action, as they are increasingly available in public places and have simple, step by step instructions. Heart attacks, which occur when blood flow to the heart is blocked, as opposed to cardiac arrest, which occurs when the heart malfunctions and stops beating unexpectedly, claim the lives of more than 23,000 Canadians every year. Recognizing the early signs of a heart attack can save a life. If a heart attack leads to cardiac arrest, performing CPR and applying an automated external defibrillator (AED) can potentially save a life. According to estimates, if the number of Canadians who knew and could perform CPR doubled, a projected 1,000 lives could be saved throughout the country each year. But knowing the skills is not enough, you need the confidence to respond to the situation.

How To Develop The Confidence To Respond

The issue of confidence to respond was the reason Active Canadian Emergency Training (ACET) was established in 1992 by advanced care/air ambulance paramedics. ACET was established with the goal to remove the gap in the emergency training preparedness they observed when they responded to 911 calls. ACET founders often encountered first aid trained responders who were not confident to respond to the emergency. The responders were confused by the complex steps they had been taught so much that they were frozen and unable to respond. ACET’s founders knew that they could develop a better, step-wise, easy to remember approach to first aid and emergency response while still covering all of the required content. Out of this concept, The Approach™ to emergency training was born.
ACET teaching principles start with the trademarked Approach™ to managing emergencies. “The Approach™ is a step-wise framework that is designed to leave participants with the confidence to respond in the first 5 to 7 minutes of an emergency happening, prior to paramedics’ arrival,” says General Manager of ACET, Andrew Outinen.
The Approach has been very successful. So much so, that course participants often reach out to share stories of how the training has helped in their own lives. Days after taking the ACET Approach course, Peel Region Officer Ashley Kirmin was faced with a family medical emergency, and he credits The Approach with giving him the confidence to respond. Ashley reached out to ACET instructor, Deb, saying; “Deb, I wanted to thank you as without your advice on securing the leg, I would have without a doubt wasted the pen and had to administer another one. Also due to your teaching, both during the day and during my ride home I was able to mentally rehearse exactly what I would do should something occur. Well something did, and everything went so well I dare call it “textbook”, but everyone was fantastic from the ambulance staff to the medical staff during our monitoring process at the hospital. Your training gave me the confidence to do exactly what was needed to be done and I wanted to both commend you and thank you – from myself personally and from my family.” “The knowledge that we are empowering people through appropriate education and that we are helping save lives drives me and makes me excited to go to work every day,” says Outinen. While the new survey findings may be discouraging and alarming to some, stories like Kirmin’s show that with the proper training and information, people can have the confidence to respond and save a life. As CPR month comes to a close, hopefully, the emphasis on the importance of this training will see people’s confidence and willingness to respond increase, and more lives saved.