Gail Bowers had just enjoyed a light lunch at home with her 64-year-old husband Jack when she noticed he wasn't breathing.

When he didn't respond to her voice, she immediately called 911. It turned out Jack was suffering from a major cardiac arrest.

Jack survived, but many aren't so lucky. The Heart and Stroke Foundation is hoping to change that with a new CPR training smartphone app called "Call. Push. Restart."

Shelley Parker, resuscitation program manager for the foundation's B.C. and Yukon division, said the goal of the app is to give Canadians at least a basic knowledge of CPR so they feel more comfortable responding in emergency situations.

"Those first few minutes are critical," Parker said.

Some CPR better than none

According to Parker, Jack's situation is a common one — 85 per cent of out-of-hospital cardiac arrests happen at home.

"Chances are, if you do end up doing CPR on somebody, it's going to be somebody that you know and love," she said.

A Heart and Stroke Foundation survey found 86 per cent of Canadians said they would do CPR if the need arose, but only 30 per cent of cardiac arrest sufferers actually receive bystander CPR. Parker said this is often because people feel reluctant to perform CPR due to lack of training and knowledge or fear of making the situation worse.

The app is an attempt to close that gap by providing users with at least a rudimentary knowledge of the technique, as well as the all-important reminder to call 911.

"Somebody who needs CPR, their heart has stopped beating, which is the clinical definition of dead," Parker said. "So it's pretty hard to make someone worse than that.

"Some CPR is much better than no CPR, than standing around and just waiting."

How to use an AED machine2:47

911 dispatchers as emergency 'coaches'

Though Jack was 64 years old at the time of his cardiac arrest, he was a long-distance triathlete who did not smoke or drink, so it was entirely unexpected.

Gail credits her husband's survival to the guidance of the 911 dispatcher.

"I couldn't say enough about him," she said. "I wouldn't hesitate to call again. He was so good."

The Bowers live in Salmon Arm, B.C., and Parker credits the province's higher-than-average cardiac arrest survival rate to its centralized 911 dispatch system. She likened the role of the 911 dispatcher to that of a coach providing guidance to callers until emergency services arrive.

"They all have the same training and so they're all able to give that great direction over the phone," she said.

With files from The Early Edition.