VICTORIA - With November marking CPR month, St. John Ambulance is encouraging everyone across Canada to learn CPR training and to become familiar with the use of an Automated External Defibrillator (AED) as every minute can be vital during a medical emergency. 

A sudden cardiac arrest is a medical emergency that can happen to anyone, at any time. According to the Heart and Stroke Foundation, nearly 80 per cent of sudden cardiac arrests happen outside of a hospital setting.

"People don't think it is going to happen to them or their family members but a cardiac arrest can happen at any time," said St. John Ambulance Victoria branch manager Dan Morrison. "Knowing how to use an AED is one of the most important things in terms of being able to save a life."

A cardiac arrest happens when heart function ceases abruptly and the heart is no longer able to pump blood to the rest of the body. If someone suffers sudden cardiac arrest, the only effective treatment is CPR paired with an electric shock from an AED.

The lifesaving technique can improve the chance of survival by as much as 75 percent.

"Over 35,000 Canadians die each year of sudden cardiac arrest," said Chief of Learning for St. John Ambulance Shawn McLaren. "It’s our mission to equip people with lifesaving skills in CPR and the equipment needed to reverse this trend because CPR training and AEDs save lives."

AEDs are portable, easy-to-use devices that deliver a shock through the chest wall of a person whose heart has stopped beating effectively. As this shock is the only method of getting the heart to function normally again, the use of an AED is a vital step in saving the life of someone who is suffering from a sudden cardiac arrest. 

According to the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Association, if defibrillated with an AED within the first minute of collapse, the chance of survival is nearly 90 per cent. Each minute more, the chance falls seven to 10 percent.

"Getting trained is easy and inexpensive," said McLaren. "Whether you’re a teenager or an adult, you can learn the skills to save a life."

Throughout the month of November, St. John Ambulance will be offering special promotions across Canada on AEDs to equip people to save a life. To sign up for CPR training or to learn more about AEDs, visit the St. John Ambulance website here