DR ABC Emergency Resuscitation

Knowing When to Give CPR in an Emergency

As a prepper, I’m always looking to improve my knowledge especially if it doesn’t cost me anything. I’m fortunate that my wife works in healthcare so yesterday I got to learn all about the DR ABC emergency resuscitation approach to (CPR) cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

She had just returned home after attending a refresher course which covered DR ABC emergency resuscitation and she told me in more detail what is involved. To be fair there are various online resources that cover this in greater detail and I have placed some links to these sites at the bottom of this article. However, I thought it would be good to share the basic knowledge with prepper bits readers.


DR ABC Emergency Resuscitation Principles

The idea of the DR ABC Emergency Resuscitation approach is to have a method of remembering the steps you need to take when deciding if you need to begin resuscitation in an emergency situation. DR ABC stands for Danger, Response, Airway, Breathing, Circulation and is designed to make it easy to remember the following steps which should be taken when assessing if (CPR) cardiopulmonary resuscitation is needed.

There are some further steps of D & E which stand for Disability and Exposure, but I won’t cover these here because they are procedures that medical professionals would follow. Below I will focus on the DR ABC Emergency Resuscitation part only. However, you can read about these by following the links at the bottom of this page.

DR ABC Emergency Resuscitation Approach – Steps

(D) Assess for Danger

Check your surroundings, is it safe for you to help?. For example, if the emergency is an (RTA) road traffic accident is the person at the side of the road or in a safe place for you to begin without endangering your own life.

(R) Evaluate Patient Response

Get close and check if they are responsive, ask them their name or call them by their name if you know it. For example “hello can you hear me” can they move their hands or squeeze yours to let you know they are conscious. If not responding ask the nearest person to contact emergency services. Only call yourself if no one else can help,

(A) Airway

  • Look inside the mouth, if safe to do so remove any obvious objects such as dentures with caution so you don’t get your fingers bitten off.
  • Listen out for sounds like snoring, gurgling, gasping or any other sounds that indicate a blocked airway.
  • Tilt the head upwards.

(B) Breathing

  • Look for chest expansion (is the chest moving up and down).
  • Listen for any signs of breathing that demonstrates air is getting into lungs.

(C) Circulation

  • Check for a pulse.
  • If no pulse and you are in a built up area for example near premises that are likely to have a defibrillator ask for someone to fetch it for you. But don’t delay commencing CPR.

How To Give Hands-Only CPR

To give hands only CPR you need to carry out a chest compression:

  1. Place the heel of your hand on the breastbone at the center of the person’s chest. Then place your other hand on top of your first hand and then interlock your fingers.
  2. Position yourself with your shoulders above your hands.
  3. Using your body weight (not just your arms), press straight down by 5-6cm (2-2.5 inches) on their chest.
  4. Keeping your hands on their chest, release the compression and allow the chest to return to its original position.
  5. Repeat these compressions at a rate of 100 to 120 times per minute until an ambulance arrives or you become exhausted.

CPR with Rescue Breaths

If you feel confident you can give chest compressions with rescue breaths. If you’re not completely confident only attempt to give hands-only CPR instead (see above).

CPR with Rescue Breaths – Adults

  1. Place the heel of your hand on the center of the person’s chest, then place the other hand on top and press down by 5-6cm (2-2.5 inches) at a steady rate of 100 to 120 compressions per minute.
  2. After every 30 chest compressions, give two rescue breaths.
  3. Tilt the casualty’s head gently and lift the chin up with two fingers. Pinch the person’s nose. Seal your mouth over their mouth and blow steadily and firmly into their mouth for about one second. Check that their chest rises. Give two rescue breaths.
  4. Continue with cycles of 30 chest compressions and two rescue breaths until they begin to recover or emergency help arrives.

CPR with Rescue Breaths – Children Over One Year Old

  1. Open the child’s airway by placing one hand on the child’s forehead and gently tilting their head back and lifting the chin. Remove any visible obstructions from the mouth and nose.
  2. Pinch their nose. Seal your mouth over their mouth and blow steadily and firmly into their mouth, checking that their chest rises. Give five initial rescue breaths.
  3. Place the heel of one hand on the center of their chest and push down by 5cm (about two inches), which is approximately one-third of the chest diameter. The quality (depth) of chest compressions is very important. Use two hands if you can’t achieve a depth of 5cm using one hand.
  4. After every 30 chest compressions at a rate of 100 to 120 per minute, give two breaths.
  5. Continue with cycles of 30 chest compressions and two rescue breaths until they begin to recover or emergency help arrives.

CPR with Rescue Breaths – Infants Under One Year Old

  1. Open the infant’s airway by placing one hand on their forehead and gently tilting the head back and lifting the chin. Remove any visible obstructions from the mouth and nose.
  2. Place your mouth over the mouth and nose of the infant and blow steadily and firmly into their mouth, checking that their chest rises. Give five initial rescue breaths.
  3. Place two fingers in the middle of the chest and push down by 4cm (about 1.5 inches), which is approximately one-third of the chest diameter. The quality (depth) of chest compressions is very important. Use the heel of one hand if you can’t achieve a depth of 4cm using the tips of two fingers.
  4. After 30 chest compressions at a rate of 100 to 120 per minute, give two rescue breaths.
  5. Continue with cycles of 30 chest compression’s and two rescue breaths until they begin to recover or emergency help arrives.

Please note giving CPR can be physically demanding if you feel yourself tiring and there are others around who feel confident in giving CPR let them take turns to ensure the CPR continues.

Recovery Position

Once resuscitation has been successful, check that there is no foreign object protruding from the side of the body. For example, a piece of metal or a knife if a person has been stabbed. If there are any do not remove them. If no obstruction exists you can place the patient into the recovery position following these steps:

  • With the person lying on their back, kneel on the floor at their side.
  • Place the arm nearest you at a right angle to their body with their hand upwards, towards the head.
  • Tuck their other hand under the side of their head, so that the back of their hand is touching their cheek.
  • Bend the knee farthest from you to a right angle.
  • Carefully roll the person onto their side by pulling on the bent knee.
  • The top arm should be supporting the head and the bottom arm will stop you rolling them too far.
  • Open their airway by gently tilting their head back and lifting their chin, and check that nothing is blocking their airway.

If you find yourself forgetting any of the recovery position steps. Rolling the person on to their side will help.

Research Credits and Recommended Reading

Survival First Aid Ideas

Geeky Medics

Oxford Medical Education

Resuscitation Council (UK)

First aid – Recovery position


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