• Unresponsive & Breathing Person

    How do I check a person who appears unresponsive?

    Check for responsiveness for no more than 10 seconds using shout-tap-shout while noting breathing, life-threatening bleeding or other life-threatening conditions.

    • Shout, using the person’s name if you know it.
    • If no response, tap the person’s shoulder (adult or child) or the bottom of the foot (infant).
    • Shout again.

    Note: Check for no more than 10 seconds.

    If the person does not respond, is not breathing, is only gasping, or has life-threatening bleeding or another life-threatening condition, immediately call 9-1-1, get equipment and give care based on the condition found according to your level of training.

    Give care immediately for the condition found and continue your check (as appropriate) to obtain more information and determine whether additional care is needed. For a person who is unresponsive and not breathing or only gasping (cardiac arrest), start CPR and use an AED immediately.

    Emergency Steps


    Check the scene safety, form an initial impression, obtain consent and put on PPE, as appropriate.


    Check for signs and symptoms.

    • No response to shouting person’s name, tapping shoulder or bottom of foot (infant), and shouting again*

    *Note: Signs and symptoms with a * require immediate emergency medical treatment.


    Call 9-1-1 and get equipment, including an AED if available, if the person requires immediate emergency medical treatment.


    Give Care.

    General Care

    1. Give care consistent with condition found and level of training.
    2. Place the person in the recovery position.
      1. If head, neck or back injury suspected, leave in position found, unless you must move for safety, to perform CPR or to control bleeding.
    3. Continue checking them as appropriate to determine if additional care is needed.
    4. Keep them from getting cold or overheated.
      1. If cold, cover them with a blanket.
      2. If hot, remove a layer of clothing.
    5. Reassure them you will help and that EMS has been called (if appropriate).
    6. Give care for shock, if necessary.
    7. Watch for changes in the person’s condition, including breathing and responsiveness, and give care as appropriate and trained.

    Unresponsive & Breathing FAQs

    How long should it take me to check a person?

    You should check for responsiveness for no more than 10 seconds.

    If someone is unresponsive but breathing, should I try to talk with the person?

    Yes, talk to the person and reassure them. Even though they might not talk to you, they may still be able to hear what is going on.

    If a person is unresponsive and can’t give consent, can I still give care?

    Yes. In these cases, consent is implied under the law (implied consent). Basically, the law assumes the person would give consent if they could. Implied consent also applies when a minor needs emergency medical assistance and the minor’s parent or guardian is not present.

    If a person is face-down, can I roll them face-up to see if they have an injury?

    If no head, neck or back injuries are suspected, you may roll the face-down and unresponsive person onto their back carefully to avoid any injury. If a head, neck or back injury is possible, keep the person in the face-down position unless you need to perform CPR.

    How do I check a person who is responsive?

    Interview the person (or bystanders, if necessary), ask questions about signs and symptoms, allergies, and medications and medical conditions (SAM).

    Do a focused check based on what the person told you, how the person is acting and what you see.

    Note: Do not ask the person to move if you suspect a head, neck or back injury. Do not ask the person to move any area of the body that causes discomfort or pain.

    After checking the person, call 9-1-1, if needed, get equipment and give care based on the condition found according to your level of training.

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