What is the Chain of Survival?

Have you ever attended a first aid or CPR course? If so, you may have heard the term Chain of Survival used, so what exactly is the chain of survival and what does it mean for first aiders?

Put simply, the chain of survival is just a serious of steps (forming a virtual “chain”) which give the best chance of survival from a cardiac arrest (when the heart stops beating).

If all the steps of the chain are followed promptly, then the victim has the best chance of surviving the cardiac arrest.

The ‘links’ of the chain are as follows:

Early recognition and call for help

Early contact should be made to the emergency services after a cardiac arrest is recognised. In addition, serious conditions which may lead to a cardiac arrest (e.g: a heart attack) should be recognised and emergency medical help called for promptly.

Early CPR

Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) should be commenced immediately after a cardiac arrest has occurred (ie, the patient has stopped breathing). Anyone can perform CPR, and ideally there should be no interruption in CPR before the ambulance arrives.

See our free online first aid course, How to perform Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation for more information on performing CPR in emergency situations. 

Early defibrillation

A defibrillator is an electrical device which delivers a shock to the heart in an attempt to correct any abnormal electrical activity which has caused the cardiac arrest. 

In basic terms, a defibrillator attempts to “restart” the heart. Earlier defibrillation is associated with better survival from a cardiac arrest.

Want to know more? Check out our guide to what a defibrillator does.

Post resuscitation care

Appropriate advanced post-resuscitation care in a hospital is essential to improving long term survival for the patient. This care should be accessed as quickly as possible after the cardiac arrest has occurred.


John Furst

JOHN FURST is an experienced emergency medical technician and qualified first aid and CPR instructor. John is passionate about first aid and believes everyone should have the skills and confidence to take action in an emergency situation.

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9 Responses

  1. Ken says:

    Yes I agree – a defib is essential for first aid in the golden hour! Like you say, the earlier the better.

  2. Lacey says:

    This was a great post. I was trained to use a defib in our schools and it is an essential part of survival.

  3. cpefley says:

    Thanks for the info! I had never heard of ‘The Chain of Survival” before, but those are all really good tips to help save someone’s life!

  4. snegal says:

    I never even knew it was possible to have a defib available as part of a first aid kit. Always assumed that was something professionals would use. Might have to get myself trained just in case.

  5. adi27 says:

    I would like to encourage everyone to learn the application of AED. As time is of an essence every minute counts, and i would attest that we have successfully revive 2 victims, one from heart attack and the other for near drowning.I have never regretted learning the First aid skills. Be prepared, ready and apply the knowledge learn, you never know when you are going to need it.

  6. mboswo says:

    many life lost due to lack of social education. Chain of survival should be known to the public so that they can save their loved one’s live. I learn a lot on steps in chain of survival, call, perform, electrify and maintain in hospital. Great subject matter

  7. Pau_85 says:

    Is First Aid course is part of the Chain of Survival?

  1. August 23, 2014

    […] “What is the Chain of Survival?” First aid for free. Retrieved online on August 15, 2014 from https://www.firstaidforfree.com/what-is-the-chain-of-survival/ […]

  2. November 25, 2017

    […] In Seattle, USA around 1990, Dr Richard Cummins discovered if a serious of events took place, in a set sequence, a person suffering from a heart attack had a greater chance of surviving. These events are known as the ‘Chain of Survival‘ […]

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