How to perform CPR

What to do in an emergency situation

UTICA, N.Y. -- American Red Cross Employee Merrick McDonald knows first-hand how important CPR is.

"I went head first into a piece of farm machinery because I was wearing loose clothing, and as a result of that if my mom didn't know CPR I wouldn't be sitting here having a conversation with you," McDonald said.

CPR stands for cardiopulmonary resuscitation, and should be performed anytime someone is unresponsive or has no pulse.

"You are taking the purpose of the respiratory system and the circulatory system," McDonald said. "By giving breaths in, you are providing oxygen into the body, and by compressing on the chest, you are acting as the heart and helping to beat the heart so that the oxygenated blood can be circulated to the brain."

The first step in performing hands-only CPR is what McDonald calls the four "H's" - look for any hazards, helpers, how many victims and what happened. Then be sure to call 911 before starting the process.

"They're not responding to you, open up their airway, find right in between their breastbone and what you're going to do is interlock your hands and press down for at least two inches," she said. "And you're just going to keep going. You're going to keep going until someone with more advanced medical care comes to assist you."

The American Heart Association recommends using the beat of Stayin' Alive by the Bee Gees or Another One Bites the Dust by Queen to time the compressions. You should continue performing CPR until a medical professional arrives on scene.

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