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Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is a first-aid technique that can be used if someone is not breathing properly or if their heart has stopped.

CPR involves chest compressions and rescue breaths that help circulate blood and oxygen in the body. This can help keep the brain and vital organs alive.

If someone is not responding to you after an accident, injury, collapse, envenomation (bites and stings) or poisoning, and is not breathing normally (gasping is not normal breathing) then:

  • Ensure you are not in danger then call triple zero (000) for an ambulance.
  • If calling triple zero (000) does not work on your mobile then try calling 112. This number is only for mobile phones.

Note: If you have no mobile coverage where you are, you will not be able to connect to triple zero (000) or 112.

Start CPR as soon as possible after calling for help

CPR involves the following steps:

  • Danger - check for danger, for example power lines, snakes, spiders or traffic. Do not put yourself at risk.
  • Response - check if the person responds. Gently touch and talk to the person as though to wake them. If there is no response, get help.
  • Send for help - ring triple zero, (000) or (112) for an ambulance.
  • Airway - check airway is clear. Remove any obvious obstruction to the mouth or nose such as vomit, blood, food or loose teeth, and gently tilt head back and lift chin (except babies).
  • Breathing - check if the person is breathing normally or not at all. If the person is breathing normally place them in the recovery position and wait for help. The recovery position helps to keep the unconscious person's airway clear. By positioning the person on their side, with their arms and upper leg at a right angle to their body and the head gently tilted back and the chin lifted up, any saliva or vomit can drain out of their mouth and will help to ensure that the airway is open. If they are not breathing normally then start CPR.
  • CPR - If the person is not breathing normally, start CPR. Put the heel of one hand in the centre of the chest, then put the heel of your other hand directly on top of the first hand. Keeping your arms straight, push down hard and fast 30 times (almost two compressions per second). You need to push down one third of the chest depth. When you have pushed down 30 times, take a deep breath, block the person’s nose and seal your lips around their mouth. Blow into the patient’s mouth until you see their chest rise. Repeat this twice, then start another 30 chest compressions and repeat.

    Even if you do not breathe into the person's mouth, continue the chest compressions. Giving compressions only is better than doing nothing at all. Do not give up until help arrives.
  • Defibrillate - attach an AED (automated external defibrillator) if available and follow the prompts.

Our How to perform CPR page provides you with the basic steps for performing CPR, and covers:

  • chest compressions-only CPR
  • chest compressions and rescue breaths
  • using an automated external defibrillator (AED)
  • detailed instructions for CPR in adults, children and babies
  • duration of CPR.

CPR training

We recommend you attend a first-aid training course. It pays to have first aid skills because they can't be learned in an emergency situation. St John Ambulance Australia offers a range of first-aid courses and can be contacted at To contact St John Ambulance Australia in your local area, call 1300 360 455.

Please note...

The information above provides guidance only, and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice. We recommend you attend a first-aid training course. It pays to have first aid skills because they can't be learned in an emergency situation.

Healthdirect Australia makes no representations or warranties as to completeness or accuracy of the information and to the extent allowable by law shall not be liable for any loss or damage arising out of the use or reliance on this information. We recommend you consult a qualified health practitioner if you have any health concerns.

Last reviewed: September 2017

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