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Every passing moment can mean life or death when accident strikes and your loved ones unexpectedly become unconscious. 

Would you know what to do in the event of an emergency?

Amy Chien-Yu Wang
Published on
Friday, May 24, 2019 - 10:28
File size
4 min 49 sec

Despite studies showing that CPR performed by a bystander can more than double an unconscious person’s chance of survival, only less than five per cent of Australians know what to do according to the Red Cross.

Senior trainer Janie McCullagh says older students often feel the need to learn first aid skills in case their loved ones get in trouble.

”A lot of them do say for family members whether it’s their children or their grandchildren. They are very keen to know about what are the differences in performing CPR on an adult and a young child or an infant. So there’s really two elements there about who are they interacting with? Is it Grandchildren? You know what happens if my partner collapses and goes unconscious and goes into cardiac arrest? Is it friends or is it other family members?”

St John Victoria’s training manager Anthony Haspall says the risk of cardiac arrest and stroke tends to dramatically increase as we age.

That’s why having as many people around us that know how to do CPR can give an older person a better chance of survival.

“That’s when we tend to get all those ailments and the risk of dangerous illnesses and so forth, for example, cardiac arrest, strokes, things like that .”

Australian workplaces require a certain ratio of staff to know first aid.

McCullagh says having more people with CPR knowledge can help when disaster hits.

“Studies from mass casualty events, whether it’s from you know natural disasters or whether it’s from terrorist attacks, found that people that know how to do CPR and first aid is that better results and better outcomes from those people that have known what to do.”

Anthony Haspall says it makes sense for those travelling to remote places to learn first aid.

“We’ve had people who’ve come to learn CPR because they are going away. They are going travelling around Australia and just to be on the safe side just in case they’re in a situation where they may be called upon they do have the skills to use. You don’t want to be in a situation where you know you could have done something if only you had he skills to do so.”

As experienced first aid trainers, both Haspall and McCullough believe age isn’t an issue when it comes to saving lives.

Whether or not you can physically get down on the ground shouldn’t affect your ability to learn CPR.

“They’ve got the knowledge and in the actual situation where it was needed, I think 99.9% of the times, in my experience, where I’ve asked students ‘do they think that they would be capable or did they actually were able to perform it even though they had these ailment, they’ve said yes’. Anything is better than nothing and doing what you can cos it might j st well save a life.”

With one in five Australians speaking a language other than English at home,  Janie McCullagh says language barriers shouldn’t be a problem when it comes to learning important life-saving skills.

”We have an opportunity for e-learning on the computer and then just come in the classroom and just do the practicals.”

A person’s chance of surviving a sudden cardiac arrest reduces by ten per cent with each passing minute.

Anthony Haspall says using a defibrillator can dramatically increase the possibility of revival coupled with CPR.

“Now a defibrillator is a piece of equipment that helps the heart to restart because what’s happening is that your heart is defibrillating which means it’s getting irregular electrical impulses which is stopping it from beating properly. So a defibrillator helps to rest the heart. A lot of people tend to think that a defibrillator is a piece of equipment that you need specialised training in but it’s something that’s very very basic you just need to know when to get it and when to press the button.”

First aid courses vary anywhere from a few hours to a couple of days.

Janie McCullagh says knowing how to tell if someone’s life is in danger and knowing what to do can make a big difference.

“A lot of people will panic because they’re concerned that they perhaps don’t know what to do because of the lack of knowledge and they doubt their skills, that time is lost. Whereas, you have trained people in CPR and first aid and they know what to do. They are confident of their skills and they know when to call an ambulance and they do it quickly. If you’re unsure, you just call triple 0 and they will guide you through it.”