Automated External Defibrillators

AED greenImagine that you are at the gym and the man running on the treadmill next to you suddenly collapses. You rush to start CPR and are relieved when you see someone running towards you, carrying an AED. Your relief quickly turns to dread when you realize that the AED’s batteries are completely dead. This exact scenario happened to a school nurse at a Catholic high school in Massachusetts while at a convention. Sadly, the man who collapsed next to her that day died. Emergency responders at the scene believe that had the AED been working correctly, the man would still be alive.

The American Heart Association states that the chances of surviving a heart attack are reduced by 7-10% with every minute that goes by without administering CPR and using an AED.

What is an AED?

An AED is a portable device that is able to diagnose and treat life threatening cardiac events by sending an electrical charge through the patient to jump-start the heart or reestablish a normal heart rate.

An AED is designed to not go off unless a charge is needed to jumpstart the heart or restore a normal rhythm. AEDs are extremely user-friendly. The machine talks the user through step-by-step what needs to be done. When you place the AED pads on the patient’s chest, it tells the user to stand clear while it analyzes the patient’s heart rhythm. It will then tell the user whether a shock is needed. If so, the AED tells the user to back away from the patient while the shock is delivered. The user will then be told whether to perform CPR or administer another shock.

It is essential that defibrillation be administered immediately following the suspected cardiac arrest. The AHA notes that if the heart does not return to a regular rhythm within 5-7 minutes, the results can be fatal.

AED Maintenance

Having an AED serviced regularly is critical. To maintain your AED, refer to the manufacturer’s instructions for the type of AED you have.

Keep an AED maintenance checklist on hand for inspections. Download an AED Checklist from the American Heart Association. Fill it out each time you inspect your AED and keep it on file. Plan to inspect your AED once a month. Here are some things to look out for:

  • Check expiration dates - both batteries and electrode pads expire.
  • Has the AED been used? After use, the battery and electrode pads must be replaced.
  • AEDs are often in public places, leaving them vulnerable to vandals. When you do your inspection, make sure the AED is intact and that nothing has been tampered with.
  • Keep track of recall or service bulletins from the manufacturer and take immediate action.

Contracting with an AED Maintenance Company

If you do not have the staff to oversee the maintenance of your AED, you may want to consider contracting with a company that provides the oversight and maintenance required by the Federal Food and Drug Administration. Most companies charge a flat fee per year, which generally includes the cost of batteries and pads when they need to be replaced, as well as maintenance after the device has been used.

The Office of Risk Management recommends Life Support Systems. Though based in Massachusetts, Life Support Systems has offices in the Lafayette area. For more information, please call Bret Smith at 781-320-0030.

Is Training Necessary?

The American Heart Association recommends that those trained in using an AED also be trained in CPR. After the AED is attached and delivers a shock, the typical AED will prompt the operator to administer CPR while the device continues to analyze the victim. Thus, AEDs and CPR go hand in hand. There are many resources available for learning CPR, from online tutorials to classes offered by your local American Red Cross. It is good practice for everyone to be familiar with how to perform CPR.

While AED training is highly recommended, the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Association (SCAA) notes that it is not necessarily required. New AED models have voice prompts to easily assist a novice with successfully using the device. If a person does not need the shock of an AED, the machine will not deliver a shock. According to the SCAA, it is not possible to hurt someone with an AED; it can only be used to save someone’s life. However, formal training is preferred since proper training will teach the AED operator how to recognize the signs of sudden cardiac arrest.

When to Use an AED

It is essential that defibrillation be administered immediately following the suspected cardiac arrest. The American Heart Association notes that if the heart does not return to a regular rhythm within 5-7 minutes, the results can be fatal.

Case Study

Although sudden cardiac arrest is a primary cause of death in adults, children can suffer from cardiac arrest too. In 2009, a six-year-old student at a Catholic elementary school in Massachusetts collapsed suddenly when her heart stopped while playing in the school gym. Two teachers ran to her assistance; one immediately began performing CPR while the other called 911. Emergency workers arrived shortly afterward and shocked the girl with a defibrillator. Her doctors noted that she most likely would not have survived without the quick actions of her teachers who were trained in CPR and the subsequent use of an AED by EMS workers.

If your school, parish or social service agency has AEDs on site, be sure to know the locations of the AEDs and know how to use the particular model on hand.

Purchasing an AED

To purchase an AED, the Office of Risk Management recommends Safety Management Systems, which is a sister company to Acadian Ambulance. 

If you have any questions, please contact the Office of Risk Management for assistance.