Frequently Asked Questions

About the ACT High School CPR and Defibrillator Program

What is the ACT High School CPR and Defibrillator Program?

The ACT High School CPR and Defibrillator Program is an award-winning initiative that establishes CPR and defibrillation as a mandatory high school program in communities across Canada. The goal of the Program is to ensure that all youth graduate with the skills and knowledge to save lives.
The ACT High School CPR and Defibrillator Program:

  • Teaches CPR and how to use an Automated External Defibrillator (AED) as a life-skill.
  • Empowers students with lifesaving skills they take to their present and future families and communities.
  • Teaches youth how to take charge and help in an emergency, teaching leadership, civic responsibility, and building self-esteem.
  • Reaches 100% of youth where set up.
  • Is a self-sustaining program that schools maintain over the long-term.
What do students learn through the program?

Through the ACT High School CPR and Defibrillator Program, all students learn the 4 Rs of CPR:

  • RISK factors for cardiovascular disease and the importance of adopting a heart healthy lifestyle;
  • How to RECOGNIZE a developing medical emergency;
  • How to REACT, by calling 9-1-1 quickly and how to help while waiting for the ambulance to arrive; and,
  • How to RESUSCITATE, or perform CPR and use a defibrillator.
How does the ACT High School CPR and Defibrillator Program work?

The ACT High School CPR and Defibrillator Program is based on a successful community-based model of partnerships and support that makes the Program FREE for all high school students:

  • Schools commit to a long-term, self-sustaining program.
  • Training resources are donated to schools. These include durable mannequins, Automated External Defibrillator (AED) training units, teacher training, and curriculum materials.
  • High school teachers are trained as CPR and AED instructors and teach students as a regular part of the curriculum.
  • The Program is easy to set up and maintain over the long-term.

ReACTing in a Cardiac Emergency: Performing CPR and Using an AED

Why is CPR and defibrillation important?

According to the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada, up to 40,000 cardiac arrests occur each year in Canada. That is one cardiac arrest every 12 minutes. Without rapid and appropriate treatment, most of these cardiac arrests will result in death.Early CPR combined with early defibrillation can increase survival rates for cardiac arrest victims by up to 75%, according to the Heart and Stroke Foundation. However, current survival rates are low because most people don’t know CPR or how to use an Automated External Defibrillator (AED)—a small, easy-to-use device with voice prompts that can tell when a heart stops beating effectively and can deliver an electric shock to help restart the heart.

With most out-of-hospital cardiac arrests occurring in homes or public places, early recognition of a cardiac emergency, early access to medical help (calling 9-1-1), early citizen CPR, and early defibrillation are critical to saving lives. The High School CPR and Defibrillator Program empowers youth with these lifesaving skills so they know how to react in an emergency.

What if the emergency is not caused by a heart problem?

Hearts stop for many reasons, not just because of heart problems. People who drown or choke, for example, have cardiac arrests, but for different reasons—they can’t breathe and therefore oxygen can’t get into their lungs and into their bloodstream. The brain stops working and soon they are unconscious. Other organs like the heart start to fail. Likewise, people who are badly injured and bleeding may “bleed to death” when they lose too much blood and there is no way oxygen can be delivered to various organs.CPR helps maintain the circulation and oxygen delivery in any of these situations. By breathing for those people and pumping their hearts, the person doing CPR tries to keep them alive until paramedics arrive.

What if it is not a heart attack? Will I look foolish if it is a false alarm?

At the emergency department of the hospital, doctors will examine the person and may do special tests. If there is an important problem, the person may stay in the hospital. But sometimes the problem is not caused by a heart problem and the person may get sent home. Did you make a mistake? No! It is OK to be wrong in this situation. Even doctors can’t tell without tests. Doctors will say you did the right thing and no one should make you feel stupid. Do the same thing next time.

What should I do if a person is having chest pain but doesn’t want me to call 911?

Trust your judgment. If you believe there is a problem, there very often is! If the chest pain continues and if you are seeing some of the 5 Ps of chest pain (pain, pale skin, puffing, pooped, puking), there probably is something wrong. Talk to the person with pain and explain why you are concerned. Talk to others around you who might help the person decide to seek help. But finally, remember that denial is common when people have heart attacks. If you think there is a problem, take charge and insist on getting medical help. Call 911. Recognize and React to avoid having to Resuscitate.

What if a player at a hockey game collapses near where you sit? What if you see people running around but not doing what you know needs to be done?

Like anywhere else, stand up and say to yourself, “I’ve been trained. I can do this.” And then do it!

When people fall down unconscious, do I have to worry about their neck?

Sometimes when people collapse, they hurt their neck. If you suspect either a head or neck injury, you must protect the head and neck from movement when performing CPR so as to prevent further injury to the neck.You should suspect a neck injury when the collapsed person has:

  • A head injury;
  • Fallen from a height or down stairs;
  • Been in a motor vehicle collision;
  • Bleeding from the mouth, ears, nose;
  • Swelling along the neck or spine.
If a person who has recently had heart surgery collapses, do I perform CPR if they have no signs of circulation?

Yes, you do.Even if the person has sutures, staples, or a zipper in the middle of their chest suggesting recent open heart surgery, if they are not responsive and not breathing (or there is only an occasional gasp of air) they need CPR to give them the best chance of survival.

Sometimes a person in cardiac arrest takes an occasional breath. Do I continue to perform CPR?

Yes! What you are seeing is what doctors call “agonal respirations.” These reflex gasping breaths are not adequate to provide enough oxygen to the person. Don’t be confused. They are not a sign of circulation. Perform CPR.

Can I break a person’s ribs when I’m doing CPR?

Yes. Even performed properly CPR can break some ribs, especially in older people whose bones are more brittle. Remember though, if a person’s heart has stopped, he or she is basically dead at this point and has little to lose. Broken ribs may slow a person’s recovery, but only slightly. And remember, we ARE talking about recovery. Without CPR, we would not be.

How do you use an AED if the patient is in water, is all wet, or has vomited?

Move the person away from the water. Dry the chest before applying the pads. Yes, even wipe away the vomit if you have to. It is OK to use the AED if the floor is wet or if the patient is lying on snow. Just make sure you dry off the chest before trying to stick the pads on.

Can AEDs be used on pregnant women?

Yes. Use the AED as you would for anyone.

Can AEDs be used on children?

Some AEDs have a child switch and child pads to apply. If the person is between the ages of 1 and 8 and the AED has a child switch and child pads, use them. If not, it is OK for you to use the normal adult pads on a child between the ages of 1 and 8. For babies less than 1 year old, just do CPR until help arrives.

How do you use an AED if the patient has a medication skin patch?

Don’t stick the AED pads over the skin patch. Either place the pads to one side or remove the patch and wipe the skin clean before applying the electrode pads.

How do you use an AED on a patient who has a pacemaker?

When you expose the chest, you might see a scar and lump, usually on the left side of the chest. Place the AED pads 2-3 cm away from that.

What if the AED says “check pads”?

Press firmly on the pads to make sure they are stuck to the chest properly. If you had previously dried the chest because it was wet, dry it and try again. If the chest is hairy, is there a way to quickly shave the hair or move the pads a bit to a better area? If there is any delay, keep doing CPR. Is there a second set of pads with the AED?

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