Automated External Defibrillators


About AEDs

According to the American Heart Association, more than 383,000 people are treated for sudden cardiac arrest in the pre-hospital setting each year. Only 12% of those victims survive. The key to survival for any victim of sudden cardiac arrest is rapid response by bystanders and by healthcare professionals. You could save a life by both knowing CPR and by having an AED close at hand.

Having an AED nearby is essential to saving the lives of those who have suffered a sudden cardiac arrest. Ideally, an AED should be placed such that it can be retrieved and applied to a patient within 3-5 minutes. When deciding how many AEDs to purchase, and where to place them, use a 3-minute response time as your guide.

Visit the American Heart Association’s website for more updates like these.

AED Frequently Asked Questions


What is an AED?

An automated external defibrillator, or AED, may look a bit intimidating, but it can be used by lay-rescuers with only minimal training. AEDs are used to revive people who are suffering from cardiac arrest. The AED is a compact device, with only a few buttons and a pair of self-stick pads called electrodes. The electrodes are placed on the victim’s chest and serve to pass an electrical current through the patient’s heart.

As soon as the AED is activated, it will begin to give directions to the user via prerecorded voice instructions and electronically-displayed text instructions. In this way, the operator can be confident that he or she is acting appropriately in the given situation.

AEDs are virtually foolproof; they identify heart rhythms that need shocked, and prohibit users from delivering a shock when not indicated.

Why should we use an AED?

Based on statistics from 1999, between 400,000 to 460,000 people each year die from cardiac arrest. This number is more than the total deaths from all forms of cancer combined.

In the past, CPR was the only treatment a lay-rescuer could provide. The ultimate goal of CPR is to oxygenate the patient’s blood, and manually force that blood out of the heart and into the patient’s body. While this treatment is better than none at all, the patient’s chances of survival were still very, very slim. Success decreases by 7-10% for every minute without defibrillation.

The AED has proven to be an enormously effective addition to the lay-rescuer’s arsenal. Defibrillation is most effective when used immediately following a cardiac arrest and has shown results that far outweigh the survival rate associated with CPR alone.

You can probably see why having an AED, with trained personnel nearby, is so important. AEDs are particularly essential in areas where people congregate in large numbers.

Why should AEDs be available for public use?

Public Access Defibrillation (PAD) programs were approved by the American Heart Association in 1995. It was based on the concept that having an AED available to the public for use on a victim suffering sudden cardiac death (SCD), would greatly increase the chances of survival for the victim. With very little, or even no training, a person could effectively use an AED long before the arrival of a Paramedic or EMT.

In an article published by the New England Journal of Medicine in 2004, studies which evaluated the efficacy of PAD programs showed that the use of an AED greatly improved the survival rates of victims of sudden cardiac arrest.

It is highly likely that a sudden cardiac arrest will occur in an area where people concentrate regularly. Remember, without an AED, the victim has a less than 5% chance of surviving, and that is only if a rescuer provides effective CPR immediately.

Who should be trained to use an AED?

With the proper training, any can use to learn an AED. However, without training, a lay-rescuer is likely to delay both the initiation of CPR and the application of the AED.

CPR/AED training is available through American Heart Association providers. RESQ Health & Safety Training is a certified American Heart Association training site. A lay-person can be trained to confidently and effectively use an AED in about 3 hours.

Can I use adult pads on children?

Absolutely. In the absence of pediatric pads, use the adult pads on the child.

However, make sure that the pads do not touch! Simply place one pad in the center of the child’s chest, and the other in the center of the child’s back, directly behind the first.

Am I liable?

Good Samaritan laws have been passed in all fifty states, which provide rescuers civil immunity in cases where they volunteer to help. Good Samaritan laws differ from state to state. Since such variation exists, you should take the time to familiarize yourself with the statutes that apply in your state.

As long as the rescuer's actions are reasonable, no legal consequences will follow. Unfortunately, EMTs, paramedics, nurses, physicians, and so on, are not covered under the Good Samaritan Acts.