Imagine a ten-year-old girl alone at home with her grandfather, watching helplessly as he collapses to the floor, hands clutching his chest. This tragic scenario would be made even worse if the elderly man dies from his cardiac arrest episode.

Six out of 10 cardiac arrests happens to a person in the presence of someone they know - family members, friends or colleagues. However, majority of victims do not receive any form of life-saving aid until paramedics arrive. This significantly cuts their chances of survival by about 10 per cent for every minute delay in applying life-saving cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

Training and encouraging the community, including the young, to perform CPR when the need arise may make a difference between the life and death of their loved ones, and possibly reduce the number of deaths from the 1,800 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests that occur each year.

"Some people still believe that cardiac arrest only happens to the elderly. They cannot be more wrong. In fact, 65 per cent of victims who die from out-of-hospital cardiac arrests are independent and economically active. Imagine the impact on a family if they lose their breadwinner suddenly," said Associate Professor Marcus Ong, Medical Director, UPEC and Senior Consultant, Department of Emergency Medicine, Singapore General Hospital (SGH).

To this end, the Unit for Pre-hospital Emergency Care (UPEC) at SGH have embarked on a specially designed programme to make learning CPR and using an automated external defibrillator (AED) easy, even for young children.

Unlike a typical 4-hour CPR and AED certification course, the Dispatcher Assisted first Responder or DARE Programme, is a simplified 1-hour hands-on session. Participants will learn to dial 995 (not 999 or 911), stay on the line with the medical dispatcher, perform CPR as directed, and use an AED with voice prompts. Guidance will be provided throughout the resuscitation process, which is similar to what they will go through in the event of a real emergency.

"Teaching children how to perform CPR and use an AED at a young age can make them feel empowered and prepared. It can also potentially instill the basic consciousness to help someone who is in trouble and to remove the fears of acting in an emergency. There is no better environment to teach them the basics of life saving than in a school, where children are more receptive to learning," said Dr Jade Kua, Programme Director of DARE, UPEC and Consultant, Department of Emergency Medicine, KK Women's and Children's Hospital.

Today, about 60 students from St. Anthony's Primary School went through the DARE Programme, joining 2,300 students from other schools (Primary, Secondary and Junior Colleges) who have done so since the Programme's inception in April 2014. The Programme will also be rolled out to other groups in the community such as workplaces and religious organisations.

'DARE to save a life'