What is SCA?

  • SCA is an electrical malfunction of the heart that occurs suddenly without warning.

  • SCA does not discriminate, it can happen to anyone, anywhere and at any time.

  • The only definitive treatment for SCA is a shock from a defibrillator.

How to respond (Chain of Survival)

Every Minute Counts

For every minute without a shock from an AED, chances of survival from an SCA decrease by 10%

Incidence in Canada

  • Approximately 40,000 SCA's happen every year

  • One SCA takes place every 12 minutes

  • 8/10 cardiac arrests occur in public places or at home

Incidence in Buildings

According to a study by the Canadian Medical Association Journal, of the nearly 8,000 out-of-hospital SCA's:

  • 23% occurred above the third floor, with a survival rate of only 2.6%

  • Above the 25th floor the survival rate was 0%


SCA Risks in Buildings

To build a heart-safe building, the first step is understanding your floor plan, and knowing what parts of the building can be reached within 80 seconds using a brisk walking pace.  


For example, consider the building design below, with simple 80m long floors and staircases on either side.

sca in buildings


How safe is your building?

*Non-reachable areas

*Reachable areas


If a person was on the first floor, at the right hand side of the building (as shown), they could access all regions in green assuming a brisk walking pace.  


This means that they could get to an AED within 80 seconds anywhere in the green zone.  It also means that regions outside the green zone are not accessible within the desired timeline.   

Key Guiding Principles

In making a heart-safe building there are considerations we suggest you keep in mind:

Know your layout. 

Every facility has unique designs and tucked away corners. Make sure that any place people can get to is built into your planning.

Discount Elevators

When identifying 80 second response zones, use only paths with stairs. Elevators are great, but they can break down, be in-use, etc.

Make AEDs visible.

Signage, stairwell labels, and building maps are great places to draw attention to the location of your AEDs. The more people know about their locations, the more likely they are to be used to save a life.

Survival Stories

Ed Gilbert. He had a sudden cardiac arrest in November 2015 while playing a hockey game. Thanks to his teammates quick response he is alive today.

Anna Lam. 20-year old Anna had an SCA in 2011 while exercising at the YMCA. Luckily for her, the YMCA had installed an AED the week before.

Fabrice Muamba. Former professional soccer player Muamba had an SCA during a televised FA Cup match. He recovered despite his heart having stopped for 78 minutes.

Watch Full Documentary below (Min 23 for SCA story).