How to perform CPR on an adult

If this is an emergency, please call 000 immediately.

What is CPR?

If an adult is unresponsive and not breathing normally, you need to call 000 for emergency help and start CPR straight away. Learn what to do.

CPR stands for cardiopulmonary resuscitation. It combines chest compressions and rescue breaths to give a person the best chance of survival following a cardiac arrest. CPR is a life-saving technique, which can sustain life until an ambulance arrives.

We've updated our guidance due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Do not perform rescue breaths on the casualty.

This guide is regularly updated and aligns with the current edition of Australian First Aid (4th edition, 7/2011).

What to do

Give 30 compressions

Position the patient on their back, on a firm surface, and kneel beside the patient’s chest.


Locate the lower half of the sternum (breastbone) in the centre of the chest.


Place the heel of one hand on the lower half of the sternum and the heel of your other hand on top of the first hand.

Interlock the fingers of your hands and raise your fingers.


Press down on the sternum.


With your arms straight, press down on the patient’s chest until it is compressed by about one-third.

Release the pressure. Pressing down and releasing is 1 compression


Give 30 compressions.


Giving 2 breaths

Open the airway by tilting the head and lifting the chin.


With the head tilted backwards, pinch the soft part of the nose closed with your index finger and thumb, or seal the nose with your cheek.

Open the patient’s mouth by placing your thumb over the chin below the lip and supporting the tip of the jaw with the knuckle of the middle finger. The chin is held up by your thumb and fingers to open the mouth and keep the airway clear.

Take a breath and place your lips over the patient’s mouth, ensuring a good seal. Blow steadily for about 1 second, watching for the chest to rise.

Turn your mouth away from the patient’s mouth. Watch for their chest to fall. Listen and feel for signs of air being expelled. Maintain head tilt and chin lift.

Take another breath and repeat the sequence above. This is now 2 breaths.


If the chest does not rise, recheck the mouth and remove any obstructions. Make sure the head is tilted and chin lifted, and ensure there is a good seal around the mouth (or mouth and nose).


CPR Fact Sheet

Printable CPR Wallet Card

Related advice

How to perform CPR on an infant

If an infant is unresponsive and not breathing normally, you need to call 000 for emergency help and start CPR straight away. Learn what to do.

DRSABCD Action Plan

The St John DRSABCD Action Plan is crucial in assessing whether a patient has any life-threatening conditions and if any immediate first aid is necessary.

Choking adult or child

Learn more about the signs and symptoms of choking, and what to do in a situation where an adult or child is choking.

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