Health & Safety Training

What Is AED and How Is It Used

Written by Pam Graham
AED Device


What Is AED?

An Automatic External Defibrillator (AED) is a lightweight, portable device used to deliver an electric shock to those who suffer from a sudden cardiac arrest (SCA). This condition occurs when a person’s heart stops beating unpredictably. The shock given through an AED helps resume the heartbeat or recover its normal rhythm in case of arrhythmia, a state of irregular heartbeat.

Most cardiac arrests originate from ventricular fibrillation (VF) – a rapid, unsynchronized heartbeat rhythm that originates from the lower chambers of the heart. AED’s are a tool to respond to such medical emergencies, including CPR. According to studies, the device can correctly detect heart rhythm 90% of the time, making it a highly useful tool to identify whether you should deliver an electric shock.

A person faced with cardiac arrest loses their chances of survival by 10% per minute from the time it occurred. Therefore, they must be defibrillated within minutes using an AED. Yet, it doesn’t mean the person cannot be saved without an AED. You can perform CPR without any medical device and save the individual.

As portable devices, AED’s can be used by anyone anywhere so that you can immediately respond to events such as sudden cardiac arrests (SCA). They can be used on an infant, a child, and an adult. You’d find them in all first-response vehicles such as ambulances, fire brigades, and law-enforcement vehicles, as well as in public places such as shopping malls, airplanes, airports, convention centers, schools, hotels, sports venues, and so on.

How to Use an AED?

If you wish to learn the use of AED’s, follow these steps:

Step 1: Switch on the Device

Place the AED base unit near the patient’s head and switch it on. Some models turn on automatically as you lift the lid, while others require you to press a button.

Step 2: Apply the AED Pads

Expose the chest of the patient and remove any moisture from it. Then, position a pad on the right side of the bare chest and right below the collarbone, and put the other pad on the left-hand side. If the pads aren’t connected to the AED, connect them.

If two trained rescuers are available, one should perform CPR while the other prepares the AED device. In no circumstances should the CPR be delayed to prepare the AED device. Place the pads around the hands of the rescuer performing CPR. As soon as the device is ready to examine the patient’s heart rhythm, CPR can pause.

Step 3: Apply the Electric Shock

Make sure no one is in contact with the patient or their clothes when the AED device examines the heart rhythm and delivers the shock. The term is referred to as clearing the patient. A trained rescuer will quickly run their eyes from the patient’s head to toe and loudly call out ‘everybody clear’ to ensure that no one is touching the patient. The rescuer then presses the button to deliver the shock.

Who Can Use an AED?

While AED’s are designed for use by the public, trained nonmedical personnel such as the police, flight attendants, fire service personnel, security guards, and other rescuers can use AED devices.

Even though you don’t require formal training for using an AED and most devices come with the feature of audible voice prompts to guide you, practical training will significantly improve your confidence and comfort level while saving a life.

ABC Health and Safety Training has classes located in Vacaville, California, to teach the proper use of AED and CPR. We train healthcare providers and laypersons alike. Contact us if you’d like more information.

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