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Sudden Cardiac Arrest - Bystanders can save lives


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).

On this page:

What is a Sudden Cardiac Arrest?

A Sudden Cardiac Arrest (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.

See Sudden Cardiac Arrest, Call 999, Perform CPR, Use AED/Defibrillator, Paramedic response, Hospital care

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 campus security so they can direct the emergency services to your location.

Save the phone number for campus security into your phone: 02476 52 2222.

If you are off-campus, call 999.

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. 

Get involved with student societies

Students are encouraged to explore the pages of the following clubs:

  • Lifesaving club - A friendly and inclusive club who aim to improve lifesaving skills while still having fun. Welcome Week 2021 events hosted by the Lifesaving club to be announced shortly.
  • First aid society - A first aid society and a St John Ambulance student volunteering unit. The society run weekly first aid awareness sessions, covering a variety of first aid skills, as well as regular socials, fundraising, and outreach projects.

Watch this short video on how to use a defibrillator


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

Do you require an ambulance right now?


On campus: call campus security -

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).