What is Sudden Cardiac Arrest

SCA is a life-threatening emergency that occurs when a person’s heart suddenly stops pumping oxygenated blood effectively to the body. This can happen to people of all ages, even those that seem healthy, and even kids. 

Who does SCA Affect

  • In one year alone, 475,000 Americans die from a cardiac arrest.

    • Globally, cardiac arrest claims more lives than colorectal cancer, breast cancer, prostate cancer, influenza, pneumonia, auto accidents, HIV, firearms, and house fires combined.

  • More than 350,000 cardiac arrests occur outside of the hospital each year.

    • In 2015, any-mention sudden cardiac arrest mortality in the US was 366,807. CPR, especially if administered immediately after cardiac arrest, can double or triple a person’s chance of survival. About 90 percent of people who experience an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest die.


What does someone look like with SCA

When someone is in SCA, they are unresponsive and aren’t breathing normally. They may look like they are gasping or shaking, but if they are not responsive and their breathing doesn’t look normal – then they are in SCA.  those that seem healthy, and even kids. 

What to do if someone is in SCA

The body’s organs and brain need oxygenated blood to survive, thus survival from SCA depends on everyday people providing help right away. 

There are 3 main steps to treat someone in Sudden Cardiac Arrest:

1. Call 911


  • Have someone call 911 right away

  •  Tell the 911 dispatcher the exact location of the person who is unresponsive and not breathing normally.

2. Begin CPR (Cardiopulmonary Respiration)

  • Make sure the person is lying on a hard flat surface (if they are on a bed, put them on the floor)

  • - Kneel right beside the person, and then place one hand in the center of the chest between the nipples, and then place the other hand on top of the first, now push down firmly 1/3rd to ½ of their chest depth (usually 2 inches for an adult)

  • Compress (push down) at a rate of 100 beats per minute

  • Make sure your elbows are locked and arms are straight

  • Do not worry if you hear any sounds when you push down

3. Use an AED (Automated External Defibrillator)

  • Press the power button to turn the AED on

  • Follow the voice prompts as it guides you through putting the two sticky AED pads on the person chest (as shown in the picture on each pads)

  • Once the pads are the person’s chest, the AED will analyze the person's heart rhythm. Only if the AED detects that a shock is needed, will it give one. 

  • The AED will tell you to make sure you aren’t touching the patient, and then press the shock button.

  • After the shock is given the AED will keep talking you through CPR until EMS arrives and takes over. The AED will re-analyze the heart every 2 minutes and if another shock is needed it will repeat the same steps. 

The Importance of Time during SCA

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What Does CPR Do?

CPR or compressing on someone’s chest in this manner helps mimic the normal actions of the heart, circulating (pushing out) blood to the rest of the body. Good CPR (pushing deep enough, pushing fast enough) keeps the organs alive by allowing them to receive blood. This blood has a bit of oxygen in it, but as time goes on there is less oxygen in the blood and the brain can’t survive without this oxygen. 


  • If there are multiple people around, have 1 person call 911 right away, have another person start good CPR right away, and have another person run to get the nearest AED right away. The quicker all these things happen the better. 
  • Push to the beat of stayin’ alive or row row row your boat, both these are around 100 beats per minute
  • It's always better to push harder than not push hard enough

What Does the AED Do?

When someone is in SCA their heart is usually just shaking like a bowl of jelly because all the cells are not electrically working together. This is what causes the blood to not be pumped effectively, because the heart is truly not beating correctly. CPR can keep the body alive, but it doesn’t bring the heart into normal rhythm. The AED is what shocks the heart, this makes the heart stop its uncoordinated beating and tells it to stop & reset. This is kind of like when your computer is spasming, you need to close everything and restart it. This is what the AED does. An electrical current goes from one pad through the heart to the other pad. After the shock has been delivered the heart is now in the process of being reset, then the AED will tell you to begin CPR. These compression's help remind the heart to pump like this. Together CPR & AED are an amazing team. 

AED's are safe & easy for anyone to use. AED's also routinely run self-tests on themselves to make sure they are working properly and alert you if there are any errors.


  • CPR alone revives a person 2-5% of the time
  • Good CPR & quick use of an AED can revive a person 80% of the time
  • This is why we need everyone to know how to recognize SCA, what to do when you see someone in SCA, and where to go to get your nearest AED.