A sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) happens when the heart abruptly stops beating. As a result the heart is no longer able to pump blood to the rest of the body. If not treated within minutes, it can quickly lead to death. An automated external defibrillator (AED) is a small, lightweight, portable device that can deliver an electric shock through the chest wall of the person whose heart has stopped. The shock can allow a normal heart rhythm to resume.


How does an AED work?

AEDs have a built in computer that can detect a person’s heart rhythm. They are programmed to recognize and shock two types of abnormal heart rhythms: Ventricular Fibrillation and Pulseless Ventricular Fibrillation. Both can quickly lead to death. The chance of survival decreases by 7% to 10% for each minute that passes without defibrillation, so time is of the essence. By properly placing the AED’s adhesive electrodes on the bare chest, the computer can determine if defibrillation is needed. If it is, a pre-recorded voice will prompt the rescuer to press the shock button on the AED. The shock momentarily stuns the heart and allows it to re-establish a normal heart rhythm.


Who can use an AED?

Having the confidence to respond to a cardiac arrest with an AED can mean the difference between life and death. Although formal training is not required, AED and CPR certifications are recommended. Such training will help the rescuer feel more comfortable and increase their confidence when using the AED. However, all AEDs are intended for use by the general public, with or without specialized training. When the AED is powered on, the user will be directed by audible voice prompts that guide them through each step for proper use.


Are AED’s safe to use?

Yes, AEDs are safe and can be used by anyone. They are highly effective at determining when and when not to deliver a shock to an adult, child or infant. A shock cannot be delivered in error. It is also safe to use AEDs in all weather conditions. However, if at all possible, move to shelter and keep the victim protected from inclement weather. If the victim is lying in water, move him or her to a relatively dry area before using the AED. In wet weather, be sure to wipe the victim’s chest dry before placing the electrode pads.


Where can I get AED training?

The American Heart Association (AHA) offers CPR and AED training through certified training centers. To locate a training center near you call your nearest AHA office or 1-888-AHA-4CPR. You may also visit www.heart.org/cpr. Type in your ZIP code where requested on the home page to access information on training sites near you. Remember defibrillation saves lives!



Jaracz Swain is the founder of Safety NET, LLC. He is a retired Firefighter/EMT of 21 years with the Louisville, KY fire department. The same passion that led him to become a firefighter, led him to develop Safety NET where he teaches the skills needed to help save lives. In his spare time, he loves to play golf and relax at the beach.

For onsite CPR and first aid training, visit the Safety NET website, their Facebook page, or call 704-493-6663.


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