Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) | Western Cape Government

Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR)

Not knowing what to do in an emergency often leads to panic. It’s better to be prepared to handle a medical emergency where quick and competent action could mean saving a life. One common and often used life-saving method which is credited with saving countless lives is cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

What is cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR)?

CPR is an emergency procedure that's performed to manually keep the brain functioning. This is done until further measures are taken to restore unprompted circulation of blood and breathing in a person experiencing cardiac arrest. This life-saving technique is very useful in many emergencies including heart attacks or near drownings where someone's breathing or heartbeat has stopped. 

How to perform CPR

The following is an advisory illustration of CPR. Training by an accredited practitioner is advised.

How to perform CPR

You should take the following steps if you’re in a situation that requires CPR:

  1. Check if the person is conscious or unconscious.
  2. If the person seems to be unconscious, tap or shake his or her shoulder and ask loudly if he’s ok.
  3. If the person doesn't respond and 2 people are available, 1 should call an ambulance
  4. If you're alone and have immediate access to a telephone, call the ambulance yourself before beginning CPR.
  5. If you think the person has become unresponsive because of suffocation (such as from drowning). 
  6. In this special case, begin CPR for 1 minute and then call an ambulance.

How is CPR performed?

The acronym CAB, which stands for Circulation, Airway and Breathing, is used when CPR is about to be performed to help people remember the order of performing the procedure which includes: 

  • hard compression of the chest,
  • tilting back the head to clear the airway, and
  • breathing, giving mouth to mouth rescue breaths.

Initiatives around CPR

The Resuscitation Council of South Africa offers courses in CPR to anyone in communities, family members, relatives and friends of those who are most vulnerable such as older people and children. 
This course is good for people who have no medical knowledge, who want to learn life-saving skills.


If you're interested in doing a course in CPR, enrol at one of the following accredited institutions:

Ambulance services: 10177

The content on this page was last updated on 26 January 2018