Imagine you are sitting outside, enjoying the long overdue sunshine, when your husband slumps over in his chair and you realize that he is not breathing. What do you do? Really. Do you panic, freeze, run for the phone to call 9-1-1, or start CPR?

Eighty-eight percent of cardiac arrests happen at home, meaning -- if you ever have to perform CPR -- it will most likely be on a family member or loved one. According to the American Heart Association, roughly 70 percent of Americans feel helpless to act during a cardiac emergency because they either do not know how to perform CPR, or their training has significantly lapsed.

Your husband continues to lie there lifeless, as you frantically try to remember CPR details you learned years ago while in college. How many breaths? How many chest compressions? Maybe you never took a CPR class and don't know where to start.

So what is CPR? CPR stands for Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation and is the manual pumping of the heart to keep oxygenated blood circulating throughout the body to provide vital organs with blood and oxygen and to prevent brain damage.

Currently, the American Heart Association estimates that victims who receive bystander CPR (that could be you!) have a survival rate that is double or triple of those who do not receive CPR right away. Sadly, the current number of cardiac arrest victims who receive bystander CPR is only 32 percent, and the survival rate for cardiac arrest victims is only 8 percent.

Your thoughts continue to race as you try to recall anything and everything you know about responding in this type of situation. You've heard about AEDs, but you don't have one. Does anyone nearby have one?

An Automated External Defibrillator (AED) is a portable device that delivers an electronic shock through the chest to the heart and is meant to restore a normal heart rhythm in a cardiac arrest victim. For every minute an AED use is delayed and a normal heartbeat is not restored, the victim's chance of survival decreases by 7-10 percent. Does your office building have an AED? How about your favorite local coffee shop? How long does it take for the ambulance to arrive on scene in your hometown? These are important questions to consider and could be the difference between life and death for a person.

North Dakota can improve cardiac arrest victims' survival rate by using the Cardiac Chain of Survival. The National Safety Council explains these crucial life-saving steps:

* Immediate recognition of the cardiac arrest and early activation of the emergency response system

* Early CPR with an emphasis on chest compressions

* Rapid defibrillation

* Effective advanced life support

* Integrated post-cardiac arrest care

Now replace the victim in your imagined scenario with your child. You are eating dinner when all of the sudden your child starts choking on their cracker. It is lodged in his or her throat, and he or she is unable to breath. What do you do? He or she is just a child -- does that make a difference in your response?

Choking and strangulation are among the top injuries that lead to death among children, according to Safe Kids Worldwide, a global organization dedicated to preventing injuries in children. Sadly, the majority of those injuries and deaths are preventable. If the above scenario made you feel hesitant and unconfident in any way, consider registering for a Pediatric CPR/AED and First Aid class.

Both Pediatric and Adult CPR/AED and First Aid classes are offered every month in Bismarck, Dickinson, Minot, Fargo, Grand Forks and Williston. The North Dakota Safety Council also provides private trainings for companies or organizations and sells safety products such as AEDs, CPR training manikins, and various first aid kits. Upon completion of the course, all students receive a 2-year CPR/AED certificate and a 3-year First Aid certificate. To learn more or register for a course, visit or call 701-223-6372.

The North Dakota Safety Council is a private, non-profit organization supported through grants, donations and memberships. Their mission is to save lives and prevent injuries at work, at home, on our roads and in our communities through education, training, leadership and advocacy.