If a medical emergency arises while you’re at home, you might be the only help available until professionals arrive.

One of the main methods to know is CPR, or cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

According to the American Red Cross, sudden cardiac arrest is among the leading causes of death in the United States.

Should you be around someone who goes into that cardiac event, EMS Training Captain Tate Rodriguez with Community Volunteer Fire Department says you should start chest compressions immediately.

“(The) first step is going to be check responsiveness, so that’s tapping them, maybe rubbing their chest really hard,” Rodriguez said, adding that you’ll also want to check for a pulse.

Mouth to mouth, or rescue breaths, is no longer recommended. Instead, you’re advised to focus on giving high-quality chest compressions.

If you can, have someone else call 911. If it’s only you, the dispatcher can walk you through what to do over the phone and to help make sure the compressions are at the correct rate. You don’t have to remember all the steps.

The process includes taking your dominant hand and putting it in the center of the chest, then interlock your dominant hand with your non-dominant hand. You’ll also want to keep your arms straight, compressing hard and fast.

It’s also important to perform CPR on a firm surface like the floor, not the couch or a bed. Compress about 100-120 beats per minute and yes, you can still sing “Stayin Alive” to keep you on track. While you’d use your hands for compressions on adults, only use two or three fingers on an infant.

The recommended depth of compressions for adults is 2 to 2 1/2 inches. For infants, it’s about 1 to 1 1/2 inches.

“The most important thing is if you find somebody that has gone into cardiac arrest or you witness it is to start compressions immediately. Don’t wait. Have someone call 911, that way we can get emergency responders to the scene right away, and the most important thing is to make sure that you’re doing continuous compressions the entire time, non stop,” Rodriguez said.

If you’re in a public setting like work or the grocery store, continue to do CPR, but have someone grab an automated external defibrillator, or AED, if one is available. The AED will analyze the heart’s rhythm and provide a shock if needed.

The device also gives verbal instructions and features pictures on the front with each step.

“If there’s any question as to if someone is breathing or if their heart has stopped, go ahead and initiate compressions,” Rodriguez advises.

But CPR training isn’t just for adults.

“We are encouraging kids anywhere from the ages of 5 and 6 to take a CPR class here. The importance of that is if they’re around their grandparent, their mom, their dad, they’re able to initiate chest compressions and also have an understanding when to call 911, why to call 911, all of those things can be very important to saving someone’s life,” Rodriguez said.

You can view available classes on the Community VFD website.

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