Most in B.C. not confident or skilled as bystander in medical emergency

Karen MacPherson
Photo submitted

EVERY 12 minutes a sudden cardiac arrest happens in Canada and 40,000 Canadians die from a sudden cardiac arrest annually.

A recent survey conducted by Ipsos and St. John Ambulance indicates that most people in British Columbia are not confident or skilled as a bystander in a medical emergency. Of the BC residents surveyed, 85% of respondents are very likely to call 911, however that percentage and confidence declines dramatically when asked to perform CPR (38%) and use an AED (30%).

While an AED is one of the most important tools in saving the life of someone who is suffering from a sudden cardiac arrest, only two-in-10 (19%) British Columbians said they know the location of the closest AED to their home, and only 20% are confident enough to use an AED in the time of an emergency.

The survey highlights the urgency for people to get HeartSET. St. John Ambulance launched the Get HeartSET campaign for March and April, to encourage British Columbians to Get HeartSET in three easy steps:

  1. Train – Get CPR and AED training.
  2. Equip – Equip your space with an AED.
  3. Maintain – Keep your CPR skills and AED supplies up to date.

“St. John Ambulance is on a mission to get people HeartSET, and you can do that by getting CPR and AED training, equipping your space with an AED and maintaining both your CPR skills and AED supplies.  If one is HeartSET, it gives them the tools to save the life of a friend, family member, or stranger in the time of an emergency. Our communities would be tremendously safer with people empowered as bystanders to save lives when a cardiac arrest occurs,” said Karen MacPherson, CEO of St. John Ambulance British Columbia and Yukon.

The survey found that most people actually aren’t HeartSET. Only 58% of British Columbians said they have taken CPR training but only about a third (34%) said they have kept their CPR training up-to-date. Roughly one-quarter (23%) said they have taken training in how to use an AED, and just 4% of British Columbians have equipped their home with an AED.

Other survey findings:

  • Seven-in-10 (71%) British Columbians say they know what an automated external defibrillator (AED) is.
  • Only three-in-10 (30%) British Columbians say they would be very likely to use an AED if they were a bystander in a medical emergency.
  • Men are more confident than women that they would use an AED (24% among men vs. 17% among women).
  • The top reasons people do not use an AED in a medical emergency are:
    • Don’t know how to use an AED (56%)
    • Worry that they could use it improperly and cause harm (53%)
    • Not knowing when to use one (36%)
    • Worry about being sued by the victim (19%)
    • Wanting to wait for someone else to step in (13%)
    • Worry about getting hurt (11%)
    • Think they need a special license (5%)


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