Basic CPR

Use the following format to cite this article:

Basic CPR. (2012). Farm and Ranch eXtension in Safety and Health (FReSH) Community of Practice. Retrieved from


Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is a life-saving technique that is useful in many types of emergency situations. Although this article describes basic CPR procedures, there is no substitution for taking a certified CPR class that allows you to learn and practice breathing and compression techniques by using special CPR mannequins. To locate CPR classes in your area, click here to view the website of the American Heart Association and here to view the website of the American Red Cross.

Note: An automated external defibrillator (AED) is a portable electronic device used to provide defibrillation via an electric shock. Defibrillation is electrical therapy that temporarily stops all heart activity and allows the heart to return to its regular rhythm. AEDs are now located in many public spaces and can be purchased for private use. An AED can shorten or even alleviate the need for CPR. Use an AED only if you have received training on how to operate the device. Because AEDs are not available in all cases, CPR remains a valuable skill.

CPR for an Unconscious Adult

The purpose of CPR is to keep oxygenated blood flowing to the brain and other vital organs until emergency medical responders can restore the unconscious person’s normal heart rhythm. Before you start CPR, you must determine whether the victim is conscious. Tap the person on his or her shoulder and ask loudly whether he or she is okay. If there is no response, immediately call 911 or local emergency services, and then start CPR.

The three main steps of CPR are circulation, airway, and breathing.


The goal of the circulation step is to restore blood circulation by using chest compressions.

  1. Make sure that the person is lying on his or her back on a firm surface, and then kneel to one side of the person’s neck and shoulder.
  2. Place the heel of one of your hands over the center of the person’s chest between the nipples. Place your other hand on top of your first hand.
  3. While keeping your elbows straight and shoulders directly above your hands, use your body weight to push straight down and compress the person’s chest at least two inches. 
  4. Complete chest compressions at a rapid pace of about 100 compressions per minute. To maintain the appropriate rhythm and count, chant to yourself “one and two and three and four and five,” and so on, as you compress the chest. 
  • If you have not been trained in CPR, continue chest compressions until there are signs of movement from the person or until emergency responders have taken over.
  • If you have been trained in CPR, do 30 chest compressions and then move on to checking the person’s airway.
  • Recommendations from the American Heart Association state that if you are untrained or if your CPR skills are not current, you should provide hands-only CPR (chest compressions only). 


If you have been trained in CPR and you have done 30 chest compressions, open the person’s airway by using the recommended head-tilt, chin-lift maneuver. Place one hand on the person’s forehead and gently tilt the head back while lifting the chin forward with your other hand. Spend a maximum of 10 seconds checking the person for normal breathing by looking for chest movement, listening for breathing sounds, and trying to feel the person’s breath on your cheek or ear. If the person is not breathing, check whether the airway is clear by opening and looking into the person’s mouth. Any foreign object that you can easily reach should be removed. Do not attempt to remove an object that is deep in the throat because you could push the object deeper.


Rescue breathing is typically done with mouth-to-mouth breathing, but it can be done mouth-to-nose if the victim’s mouth is seriously injured or cannot be opened. After you have opened the airway  by using the head-tilt, chin-lift maneuver, pinch the person’s nose and create a seal by placing your mouth over his or her mouth. Give a rescue breath by breathing into the person’s mouth, and observe the person’s chest to make sure that it rises. If the chest does not rise, reposition the head using the head-tilt, chin-lift maneuver. Give a second rescue breath, and follow it with 30 chest compressions and two more rescue breaths. Repeat the pattern of 30 compressions and two breaths until there are signs of movement from the person or emergency responders have taken over.

CPR for an Unconscious Child

 Performing CPR on an unconscious child is similar to performing CPR on an adult, with the following exceptions:

  • If you are alone, do five cycles of 30 compressions and two rescue breaths before calling 911 or local emergency services.
  • Use only one hand to complete the chest compressions.
  • Perform rescue breaths gently.

Click here to be directed to the University of Washington School of Medicine CPR fact sheets and video clips about performing CPR on adults, children, and infants.

For more information about preparing your farm or ranch personnel for an agricultural incident, click here to view the article “Basic First Aid” and here to view “First Aid Kits for Production Agriculture.”


Use the following format to cite this article:

Basic CPR. (2012). Farm and Ranch eXtension in Safety and Health (FReSH) Community of Practice. Retrieved from



Community first aid and safety. (2002) San Bruno, CA: The American Red Cross.

Eisenburg, M. (n.d.) Learn CPR: You can do it! University of Washington School of Medicine. Retrieved from

Hill, D. (2004) Emergency first aid care for farm families instructor’s guide. Pennsylvania State University.

Mayo Clinic staff. (n.d.) Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR): First aid. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved from


Reviewed and Summarized by:
Linda M. Fetzer, Pennsylvania State University –
LaMar Grafft, East Carolina University
Dave Hill, Pennsylvania State University
Dennis J. Murphy, Pennsylvania State University –
Aaron M. Yoder, University of Nebraska Medical Center –