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Priorities in an emergency

In any emergency situation, early recognition is a key step in initiating early management. In all emergencies, the rescuer should: 

  • quickly assess the situation 
  • ensure safety for the rescuer, person in need and bystanders (this may mean moving the person in need) 
  • send for help (call an ambulance). 

If the person is unresponsive and not breathing normally, follow DRSABCD.

Where more than one person requires attention, the care of an unconscious person has priority.


DRSABCD is the basic life support flow and should be used in all cases.

  • Assess the situation
  • Identify any potential dangers
  • Continue to assess the situation
  • If it is not safe to proceed, call for help
Responsive Check for a response using talk and touch or the C.O.W.S method:

  • Can you hear me?
  • Open your eyes
  • What’s your name?
  • Squeeze my hand

Individuals who are unresponsive but breathing normally should be positioned into a side-lying recovery position

Send for help Call Triple Zero (000):

  • For all critical or serious incidents
  • Where breathing is compromised
  • Where bleeding is severe
  • Where someone is suffering from a serious condition such as (but not limited to):
    • cardiac arrest
    • stroke
    • anaphylaxis
    • severe asthma

If in doubt – call your management team, but in serious cases – do not delay in getting emergency help!

Airway For an unresponsive adult or child, open the airway using the head tilt-chin lift:

  • One hand is placed on the forehead or the top of the head.
  • The other hand is used to provide chin lift.
  • The head (NOT the neck) is tilted backwards .
  • For an infant, open the airway by placing the head in the neutral position and support the jaw from falling back.
Breathing Check for breathing using look, listen and feel.

  • LOOK for movement of the upper abdomen or lower chest
  • LISTEN for the escape of air from nose and mouth
  • FEEL for movement of the chest
  • Commence CPR by giving 30 chest compressions followed by two breaths (ratio of 30:2).
  • 100-120 beats per minute (bpm) is the recommended compression rate range
  • Compression should be 1/3rd the depth of the chest
  • The correct compression technique for:
    • infants (0-1 years old) is 2 fingers
    • children (1 – 8 years old) is 1 hand
    • children and adults (8 years and above) is 2 hands interlocked
Defibrillation (AED)
  • Attach an Automated External Defibrillator (AED) as soon as possible and follow the prompts.


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