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When it comes to basic life support, the first few minutes of an incident are critical. 


DRSABCD is an action plan to follow to help save a life. These fundamental actions for providing basic life support are something that anyone can and should learn and implement.



DANGER – Check for danger and ensure the scene is safe.

RESPONSE – Check for a response – ask name and squeeze shoulder.

SEND – Send for help – call Triple Zero (000) for an ambulance, or ask a bystander to make the call.

AIRWAY – Open mouth – look for foreign material and clear and open the airway.

BREATHING – look, listen, feel.

CPR – Start CPR – 30 compressions followed by2 breaths. If unwilling or unable to perform breaths, perform chest compression only (100–120/min).

DEFIBRILLATION – Apply a defibrillator (AED) as soon as available and follow the voice prompts.

D is for Danger


Is the area safe for you, others and the casualty? Before jumping to the rescue, assess whether the situation poses a threat due to conditions such as fire, gas, wires, obstacles or even toxic fumes. After all, you won’t be able to help the casualty if you become a casualty yourself.


Take a moment to check around the casualty for any potential dangers and then proceed.

R is for Response

Is the casualty conscious? If they aren’t responding you will need to take other actions, so take a few steps to test if they can respond:

1.    Ask them their name.
2.    Gently squeeze their shoulders.

If they provide any form of response such as movement, noise or opening their eyes, the casualty is conscious and should be made comfortable. You can then attend to their injuries.

However if there is no response, move on to the next steps of DRSABCD.

S is Send for help


If they aren’t responding, an ambulance should be called – phone triple zero (000) or ask another person to call for you so you can move on to checking the casualty’s airway.


A is for Airway

If the casualty has something blocking their airway, they won’t be able to breathe freely and their survival will be compromised.


Open their mouth to check if the airway is blocked by food, vomit, blood or a foreign object.


If you find an obstruction, place them in the recovery position so you can better clear out the mouth with your fingers and let any fluids drain out, as this will be difficult to do effectively if they are lying on their back. Once it is cleared, check their breathing.


An airway can also be compromised if the casualty is sitting upright and their head is slumped forward (for example in a car accident). Lifting up their chin and moving the jaw forward will help them to breathe by maintaining an open airway.

B is for Breathing

Even once the airway is cleared, the casualty may not immediately be able to breathe. To check their breathing, look, listen and feel for 10 seconds. You can do this by placing a hand on their chest and your ear to their mouth—listen and feel for breaths, and look at your hand to feel for the rise and fall that would indicate breathing.


An occasional gasp is not considered normal breathing. Two to three breaths in ten seconds is a good indicator of normal breathing.


If they are breathing, place the casualty in the recovery position. You should have already called triple zero (000) for an ambulance, but if not do so now.


Keep monitoring their breathing until help arrives, as they could stop breathing at any time and you will then need to be ready to start CPR.


If they are not breathing, ensure triple zero (000) has been called and start CPR.

C is for CPR


Cardiopulmonary resuscitation, or CPR, will help a casualty that is not breathing, responding or moving. Giving CPR will help their lungs to inflate with air and pump blood around the body via the heart.

CPR follows these steps:
1.    Give 30 chest compressions with two interlocked hands.
2.    Tilt the head, lift the chin and give 2 breaths via the mouth, pinching the nose closed. Their chest should rise with each breath
3.    Give a further 30 chest compressions
4.    Keep giving 30 chest compressions followed by 2breaths until help arrives.


If you find breaths are challenging to provide, performing only 30 compressions on the chest will be better than no CPR at all.


You do not have to give the casualty breaths to their mouth if you are in any way uncomfortable with this.

If you can, swap compressions with another First Aider to reduce fatigue. The transition should be done smoothly to ensure no interruption to CPR.

Stop CPR when:
•    the casualty begins breathing and responding (place them in the recovery position)
•    more qualified help arrives from an ambulance 
•    you are physically unable to continue
•    if the situation becomes at all dangerous to you.


Practicing CPR at a recognised First Aid course is an opportunity to exercise skills on manikins, learn how much pressure to apply and the speed at which to perform compressions. 


Unfortunately most people who only read instructions will feel unprepared to provide CPR should an incident occur, which is why we recommend everyone completes a First Aid course and regular CPR refreshers.

D is for Defibrillation


If a defibrillator is available, send someone for it as soon as you start CPR.


It is important to apply the defibrillator as soon as possible – for every minute that passes without defibrillation, the chances of survival drop by 9%. The machine will tell you what you should do via voice prompts, as soon as it is opened or turned on. The instructions are clear and easy to follow and will repeat until you perform the required actions.


The defibrillator will detect if a shock is needed by analysing the heart’s electrical activity, and will determine whether a shock should be given. It will not shock the casualty if this isn’t required. 

If a successful shock has been delivered and the patient starts breathing normally, continue to check the patient’s breathing and be prepared to being CPR again if the patient stops breathing normally.



DRSABCD are the fundamental steps to follow for dealing with any emergency First Aid situation. The best way to ensure you will be ready and able to enact this action plan is to book a Nationally Recognised First Aid Training course. Book today.


A first aid training course will give you the confidence to take action and save a life.

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