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Active Bystanders can save lives - Sudden Cardiac Arrest

This page brings together existing resources and information to support staff and students to be better prepared to respond to situations where someone may be experiencing a Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA).

What is a Sudden Cardiac Arrest (CSA)?

A SCA is a "life-threatening emergency that occurs when the heart suddenly stops beating. It strikes people of all ages who may seem to be healthy, even children and teens."

How to recognise cardiac arrest:

  • Start CPR in any unresponsive person with absent or abnormal breathing.
  • Slow, laboured breathing (agonal breathing) should be considered a sign of cardiac arrest.
  • A short period of seizure-like movements can occur at the start of cardiac arrest. Assess the person after the seizure has stopped: if unresponsive and with absent or abnormal breathing, start CPR.

(Reference: Perkins GD et al. Resuscitation Council UK 2021 Guidelines. Adult Basic Life Support Guidelines. Available from:

Survival rates for SCA outside of the hospital are usually 10%. This rises to 57.1% when a defibrillator is used by a bystander. A defibrillator/AED is a device that analyses the heart and delivers a shock to restart it if necessary. These signs are used to indicate the location of and explain the function of an AED.

Role of the bystander

Based on the Chain of Survival from the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation this image demonstrates the steps that must occur in rapid succession to maximise the chances of survival from SCA. Prepared bystanders could play a critical role in recognising and responding to an SCA by carrying out the first four steps in the chain.

What steps can you take now to help you stay prepared? 

Know who to call in an emergency

If you are on campus and require external emergency services, call the Community Safety team so they can direct the emergency services to your location.

Put the contact numbers into your phone.

Find defibrillators on campus

There are a number of defibrillators at the University - identify the closest defibrillators to you.

Find a first-aider

Find out who the qualified First Aid staff are by building.

Useful apps

what3words: what3words has given every 3m square in the world a unique 3-word address. Knowing your exact location may help emergency services find you faster.

Lifesaver: Produced by the Resuscitation Council UK., this app can support you to learn CPR skills and how to use a defibrillator to help someone in cardiac arrest.

First-aid training

Staff can register their interest to attend a First Aid course. 

Watch this short video on how to use a defibrillator

4-minute video from St. John's Ambulance.

Previous events

ERC training in Basic Life Support (June 2022)

Sixteen staff and students passed the European Resuscitation Council accredited Basic Life Support training course delivered by Warwick Resuscitation for Medical Disciplines (RMD) Society and supported by CVEP.

Raising awareness of how to help in an emergency (October 2021)

Warwick Resuscitation for Medical Disciplines (RMD) Society and the Warwick First Aid Society collaborated with CVEP to host two events for this years’ Resuscitation Council UK’s #RestartAHeartLink opens in a new window day - supporting staff, students, and members of the public to develop Covid-safe CPR skills and learn how to use an AED.

Photos from the events:


Do you need emergency help right now? 

On-campus: call the community safety team: 02476 52 2222

Off-campus: Call 999

All calls requiring an external emergency service on campus should be made through the Control Centre on the emergency number (02476 52 2222).

Find an AED:

Location of AED/defibrillators on Campus

Campus map

CPR/AED training:

CVEP have collaborated with Warwick Medical School to offer free ERC accredited Basic Life Support training to staff and students. This course is now finished.

Upskill yourself:

Short interactive films to learn how to save a life as a bystander if someone has a cardiac arrest or chokes.

Student societies:

Lifesaving club - A friendly and inclusive club aiming to improve lifesaving skills while still having fun.

First aid society - Weekly first aid awareness sessions, covering a variety of first aid skills, as well as regular socials, fundraising, and outreach projects.