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How to Be a Hero, Even When You're Not Trying To Be

By Edited Jun 18, 2015 2 1

Keep Your Cool and Save a Life! Here's How.

You’re walking down the street one day minding your own business and all of a sudden you hear screaming and see a crowd gathering around someone lying on the ground, seemingly unresponsive.  In situations like these, unless there is someone on the scene with professional rescue training, you’re likely to see a lot of cell phones whipped out and a lot of nothing else.  Here’s a chance to make a difference, if you know what to do.


Before we begin, it’s important to ensure your own safety before attempting to help others.  Make sure there are no obvious dangers like being in the middle of a road without people blocking traffic, downed power lines, etc.  Also, you want to do your best to avoid any communicable diseases, so it’s not recommended to do any type of mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.  It’s been proven that taking the following steps (without rescue ventilations) combined with a timely response from emergency medical personnel results in a similar outcome statistically than those with rescue breathing.

Here’s what you can do.

1.  Make sure someone is calling 9-1-1.  Hopefully it’s only one or two people so the call goes through.  It’s also nice to have a few people to alert the paramedics exactly where the patient is when they arrive.  Time is of the essence.

2.  Kneel next to the patient and check for any breathing by watching for any rise and fall in their chest.  Also check for a pulse in their carotid artery, just to the side of their windpipe.  If they’re breathing, they have a heartbeat.  Assuming that no major trauma occurred prior to their collapse, place them in the recovery position (see picture).


3.  If they’re not breathing but have a pulse, do NOT start chest compressions.  Call for someone to seek out an AED (automated external defibrillator), which are very common these days in shopping malls, airports, hotels, health clubs, schools, etc. in case they become pulseless.  Place them in the recovery position and continue to monitor for a pulse.


4.  If they don’t have a pulse (and then they obviously aren’t breathing), start chest compressions.  Interlock your fingers with one palm over the top of the other hand, place your hands on their sternum (breastbone), and push down 1½ to 2 inches for an adult.  You may think you’re pushing too hard, but a few broken ribs are easy to fix and often mean you’re providing adequate pressure.  Locking your elbows out and using your entire body to do compressions is most effective.  Aim for about a hundred a minute, roughly the beats-per-minute of the Bee Gee’s Staying Alive.


5.  Continue compressions until professional help or the AED arrives.  The AED is literally idiot proof and will only allow you to defibrillate (shock) the patient if it’s appropriate.  The greatest danger with the AED is if someone else inadvertently touches the patient when it sends out the electricity.  It will remind you mulptiple times to move away.

NOTE: Proper chest compressions are exhausting, so if you can find someone to switch off with, it’s a good idea.

If the patient went down due to an airway obstruction, which usually occurs in a restaurant or other area where food is being served, read my upcoming post on how to be a hero with airway clearing maneuvers.


Don’t be concerned about liability in case you don’t follow proper protocols to perfection.  Most states and jurisdictions have Good Samaritan laws that release you from any liability caused by your actions as long as your intent was to help.


Now you’re armed with a life saving tool.  It’s your responsibility to use it should you ever need to.  Believe me, someone will thank you for it.



May 10, 2012 4:53am
Thank you for some very great tips. Your article will inspire people to know more about 'life saving' - eventually it might save a life!
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