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Before Help Arrives HEARTSafe Community Initiative

What is a HEARTSafe Community

HEARTSafe Communities was started in Massachusetts, and has since spread over the world, and is a program designed to promote survival from sudden out-of-hospital focused upon strengthening the Chain of Survival; it recognises and stimulates efforts by individual communities to improve their systems to promote every link in the Chain.

In the HEARTSafe model, a community, which may be a geographical region or an organisation, establishes a set of minimum criteria that must be met in order to achieve HEARTSafe status. 

These are goals that support the Chain of Survival, such as widespread HQ-CPR instruction, public access defibrillators placement plans and fundraising activities, and aggressive resuscitation protocols for first responders and ambulance services. 

At Before Help Arrives, The HEARTSafe Community Program is another initiative we support that focuses on strengthening the “Chain of Survival” as described  by the Australian Resuscitation Council; it recognises and stimulates efforts by individuals to improve their local system for preventing Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) from becoming irreversible death.   


The Cardiac Arrest "Chain of Survival"

The Chain of Survival is a concept that resuscitation scientists and doctors have developed over the last twenty years, to describe all the processes that need to happen in order to save the life of a cardiac arrest victim; these are recognition that a cardiac arrest has happened and calling for help, performing High-Quality CPR (HQ-CPR), using an Automated External Defibrillator (AED) to deliver a shock to restart the heart, and high-quality life support and post-resuscitation care from paramedics and hospitals.


The five aims of our HEARTSafe Community Program

  1. Improve understanding about the Chain of Survival.
  2. Help people understand and recognise  someone suffering a Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA).
  3. Increase the number of people who are willing and able to do CPR.
  4.  Improve access to early Defibrillation and a Public Access Defibrillator (PAD) Program.
  5. Increase survival rates. Nationally there is currently only a 7% to 10% chance of survival

Survival Rates for Sudden Cardiac Arrest: ONLY 7 - 10%


What is Sudden Cardiac Arrest?

Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) is a life-threatening emergency that occurs when the heart unexpectedly stops beating. It strikes seemingly healthy people of all ages, even children and teens.

  When SCA happens, the person collapses, becomes unresponsive, and it not breathing normally. He or she may appear to be gasping, snoring or having a seizure.

 SCA leads to death within minutes if the person does not receive immediate help.

 Survival depends on the quick actions of people nearby to call 000, start CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation), and if available, use an AED (automated external defibrillator) as soon as possible.

 SCA is a leading cause of death in Australia. People of all ages experience EMS-assessed out-of-hospital non-traumatic SCA each year and nine out of 10 victims die.

When bystanders intervene immediately by giving CPR, survival rates double or triple.

Is Sudden Cardiac Arrest the same as a heart attack?

No. A heart attack may be compared to a plumbing problem in the heart, while Sudden Cardiac Arrest may be compared to an electrical problem in the heart. 

When people have heart attacks, they are awake, their hearts are beating, and they are able to communicate.  

When people have SCA, they are not awake, their hearts are not beating, and they are unable to communicate. Heart attacks can lead to SCA, but there also are many other causes.

Is there anything a bystander can do to help save a life threatened by Sudden Cardiac Arrest?

Yes. The chances of survival from Sudden Cardiac Arrest increase dramatically if the victim receives immediate CPR and treatment with a defibrillator. AEDs-increasingly available in public places and homes-are designed for use by laypersons and provide visual and voice prompts. They will not shock the heart unless shocks are needed to restore a healthy heartbeat.

What causes Sudden Cardiac Arrest?

Sudden Cardiac Arrest can result from cardiac causes (abnormalities of the heart muscle or the heart's electrical system), external causes (drowning, trauma, asphyxia, electrocution, drug overdose, blows to the chest), and other medical causes such as inflammation of the heart muscle due to infection.

How common is Sudden Cardiac Arrest?

Sudden Cardiac Arrest is a leading cause of death and it affects more than 30 000 Australians outside hospitals each year.

Where does Sudden Cardiac Arrest occur?

Sudden Cardiac Arrest outside hospitals occurs most often in a home or residence (68.5%), followed by public settings (21%) and nursing homes (10.5%).


Does Sudden Cardiac Arrest mostly affect the elderly?

No. While the average Sudden Cardiac Arrest victim is 60-years-old, SCA affects people of all ages-even children and teens.

Does Sudden Cardiac Arrest mostly affect people with a history of heart problems?

No. Sudden Cardiac Arrest is often the first indication of a heart problem.

How often is Sudden Cardiac Arrest witnessed?

Sudden Cardiac Arrest outside hospitals is witnessed by a layperson in 37% of cases and by an EMS provider in 12% of cases. For 51% of cases, the collapse is not witnessed.

Who survives Sudden Cardiac Arrest?

About one in 10 EMS-treated victims of Sudden Cardiac Arrest survives (10.8%-11.4%). However, there are large regional variations in survival to hospital discharge (.8%-22%), which are largely due to bystander intervention with CPR and AEDs.

Do survivors of cardiac arrest experience any complications?

Some survivors of cardiac arrest experience multiple medical problems including impaired consciousness and cognitive deficits. As many as 18% of OHCA survivors have moderate to severe functional impairment at hospital discharge. Functional recovery continues over the first six to 12 months after OHCA in adults.

What is the impact of Sudden Cardiac Arrest on society?

The estimated societal burden of Sudden Cardiac Arrest translates to millions of years of potential life lost for males and approximately half that potential life lost for females, accounting for 40-50% of the years of potential life lost from all cardiac diseases.

 Among males, estimated deaths attributed to Sudden Cardiac Arrest exceeded all other individual causes of death, including lung cancer, accidents, chronic lower respiratory disease, cerebrovascular disease, diabetes mellitus, prostate cancer, and colorectal cancer.

Take Home Message

You can save a life. First, be prepared by learning CPR and how to use an AED.

Then, if SCA strikes:

1. Call 000 and follow dispatcher instructions.

2. Start CPR. Press hard and fast on the centre of the chest at a rate of 100-120 beats per minute.

3. Use the nearest AED as quickly as possible.

SOURCE: Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation

A Community Safety Initiative from
 Tactical Casualty Care Australia: TC2 Australia

A Community Safety Initiative from Tactical Casualty Care Australia: TC2 Australia