The Basics: AED (Automated External Defibrillator)

As we finish out our The Basics series about first aid we’d like to discuss a powerful life saving device that can prevent death in your workplace. Heart related emergencies can happen anywhere and are extremely common; over 725,000 Americans experience a heart attack each year. Another medical emergency involving the heart is sudden cardiac arrest. Sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) is different from a heart attack due to the fact that the heart suddenly stops beating altogether whereas blood can still flow during a heart attack. Sudden cardiac arrest can occur after a heart attack, however.

One life-saving tool that can prevent death resulting from sudden cardiac arrest is an automated external defibrillator, or AED for short.

What is an AED?

The defibrillator is credited to a man named Frank Pantridge, hailed as the father of emergency medicine. He created the first portable defibrillator in 1965 and this first defibrillator was originally made to operate on car batteries and weighed a total of 150 pounds. Pantridge had it installed inside of an ambulance allowing the EMTs at the time to start issuing and using the defibrillator right away on patients who needed it.

How does it work?

According to, an automated external defibrillator works by using a built-in computer that checks a victim’s heart rhythm through adhesive electrodes. The computer calculates whether defibrillation is needed. Studies have shown that if defibrillated within the first minute of collapse, the victim’s chances for survival are close to 90 percent. Anybody can use an AED, check out this video from the American Heart Association on how to use an AED. 

Where should an AED be installed?

  • In Home-

It is a well-documented fact that the majority of sudden cardiac arrests (SCA) happen outside of the hospital, with most events taking place at home. Unfortunately in most cases, insurance companies will not cover the cost of an AED

  • In Schools-

According to the American Heart Association’s most recent data, 7,037 children die from SCA each year. The most effective treatment of sudden cardiac arrest is a shock from a defibrillator, which needs to be administered as soon as possible, which is why schools need to have AEDs and keep them maintained.With about 20 percent of the U.S. population being at school each day, it is extremely necessary that our schools be equipped with AEDs. Watch this video from Children’s Nationwide on using AEDs on children.

  • In Gyms-

While no one is guaranteed 100% safe from experiencing a SCA, there are some conditions that can increase an individual’s risk. One of those conditions is intense physical exertion. Victims of cardiac arrest in gyms & health clubs with an AED have a 93% chance of survival versus 9% chance when no AED is present.

  • In the Workplace-

There are about 10,000 cardiac arrests in the workplace each year in the United States. Businesses with a lot of employees or visitors are more likely to encounter someone in SCA. Additionally, businesses in busy areas or with lots of foot traffic are likely to have a cardiac arrest emergency onsite or nearby.

What should I know when purchasing an AED?

  1. What is the initial cost of the AED?
    The price of the AED is only one cost factor you will need to consider, but it is the most significant initial investment you will make. Starting at a good price point will set you up to stay on-budget.
  2. What is included in the initial AED price?
    Does it come with a soft carrying case, pads, batteries, or a rescue accessories kit? Or other items such as scissors, razors, barrier masks, gloves, or washcloths? Not all offers are equal, so be sure to see what comes bundled with your AED purchase.
  3. What is the total cost-of-ownership of the AED?
    This aspect is often overlooked. At Marelly we always stress this to our customers when meeting with them. How often do the pads and batteries have to be replaced? How much do they cost? A cheaper AED might cost less in the beginning, but usually ends up costing much more in the long term than other AEDs that cost only a little more up front. (Words of wisdom: The cheapest is never the best.)
  4. What is the cost to upgrade the device when new CPR/AED guidelines are released?
    Every four to six years, the American Heart Association updates the guidelines for CPR/AED administration. Therefore, AEDs have to be upgraded with new software. Find out if the upgrade can be performed onsite at your location or if the device has to be sent in.
  5. What type of pads come with the AED?
    Does the AED you’re considering use the traditional two-piece pads, or a one-piece pad? Some people find that AEDs with one-piece pads like the Zoll AED Plus can be easier to use than 2-pad AEDs. They are also easier to replace and can last for up to 5 years.
  6. How durable is the AED?
    All AEDs have what is called an IP (Ingress Protection) Rating. Usually labeled somewhere on the back of the AED, this rating tells you the AED’s resistance to natural elements like water and dirt or dust. The higher the rating the better. 
  7. Does the AED provide audio, or audio AND visual prompts for the responder(s)?
    A sudden cardiac arrest is not exactly a nice, calm, quiet event. Hearing an AED can be tough based upon the environment it is used in. The more audio AND visual prompts the better, which also helps the responder not have to rely only on memory.
  8. What type of additional support will the AED provide if no shock is needed?
    FACT: 50% of the time an AED is used, the person does not initially have a shockable rhythm. However, 100% of SCA victims will need high quality CPR in order to survive.
  9. What type of CPR support does the AED Provide? No support? Minimal? CPR “Prompting”?, or real-time CPR Coaching/Feedback?
    The more support the better. The chance of a lay responder providing high quality CPR to a victim is very low, simply because that person has probably never performed CPR on a victim before. Don’t just settle on any two-button “shock box.” Again, AED similarities stop at the acronym that is used to describe them. Make sure your AED provides as much support as possible, including CPR support. This will increase the chances of a successful rescue, cut down on confusion, and provide the closure that a good Samaritan needs after an SCA event.

What maintenance does an AED require?

Like any machine, automated external defibrillators, or AEDs, need to be maintained.

​​Check the manufacturer’s literature as to how often the batteries need to be replaced. Batteries in AEDs commonly need to be replaced between every two and four years.

Regardless of what type of AED you purchased you will need to perform monthly maintenance checks on your AED. Do you know what to be checking for?

Follow these rules and, chances are, you and your AED will be ready to save a life.

  1. Place your AED in a visible and unobstructed location
  2. Verify the battery installation is correct
  3. Check the status / service indicator light
  4. Note the absence of the visual/ audio service alarm
  5. Inspect exterior components and sockets for cracks
  6. Confirm that you have two sets of sealed AED pads that have not expired
  7. Keep accurate records and replace the AED battery as recommended for your particular device
  8. Refer to the manufacturer manual for more information and proper maintenance procedures for your particular device

Now that you have learned the basics on what an AED is, how it works, and important information when selecting a device, you are ready to make the purchase. Contact a sales representative at Legacy Medical Sales for assistance with purchasing the one that best fits your unique needs,  An AED is one more useful tool to add to your company’s first aid program, a tool that can save a life.