AED Defibrillators – You can save lives

Defibrillator First Aid (even by an untrained person) can help someone survive a heart attack, one of today’s commonest causes of death. According to the Resuscitation Council (UK) there are about 30,000 cases of cardiac arrest outside hospital each year in the UK.  About 20% of these cardiac arrests are caused by ventricular fibrillation (VF) or pulseless ventricular tachycardia (VT). Use of a defibrillator in such cases, can result in survival rates as high as 75%. So that’s potentially 4,500 lives that can be saved every year in the UK alone. However, time is of the essence. The chances of a patient’s survival reduces by 7-10% for every minute defibrillation is delayed. Given how long it may take an ambulance and/or medical support to arrive that’s a real problem. This is where you can help!

Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) to the rescue!

We have all seen TV and movie scenes where hospital patients are shocked with defibrillators.  The equipment is big, complicated and surely requires specialised training to use it.  That’s very true of hospital defibrillators, but portable defibrillators, known as automated external defibrillators (AEDs), can now be found in many public places (e.g. shopping malls, workplaces, hotels etc.).  Whilst training in the use of these AEDs can make their use more effective, they are designed to be used by anyone, trained or not. AED devices literally talk the operator through the use of the device and have clear diagrams showing what to do and where to place the pads on the patient’s body. They even analyse the patient for you and let you know if shocking is or isn’t required.  A short video showing the use of an AED, and how simple it is to use, can be found here on Youtube The latest (2010) ILCOR Consensus on Science and Treatment Recommendations says…

“An AED can be used safely and effectively without previous training. Therefore, the use of an AED should not be restricted to trained rescuers. However, training should be encouraged to help improve the time to shock delivery and correct pad placement.”

Finding AEDs with the GoodSAM app

This then raises the question of how do we know if a AED is close by and if it is available? As the statistics above highlight, we can’t afford to spend time looking for an AED.

image of GoodSAM app showing nearby available defibrillator locations

GoodSAM app showing nearby available defibrillator locations

An organisation called GoodSAM ( has produced Apps for both Android and iOS that allows people to register as either an Alerter or Responder for first aid emergencies. Both the Alerter and Responder app shows the position of the nearest available AED device registered on their website (see image on right). At the time of writing nearly 12,500 AEDs have been registered. When an AED is registered with them, they not only register the location but when the AED is available.  For example an AED may only be available during shopping hours if it is in a shopping mall. This means that an AED that is currently unavailable isn’t shown and time not wasted. Registering AEDs is easy and can be done via either of the apps or at their website  If you know the location of one or more AEDs please register them and preferably download the appropriate app. The more AEDs people know about, the more lives can be saved.

Image of standard UK Defibrillator/AED sign

Defibrillator/AED standard UK sign

In the UK AEDs should be clearly indicated with the standard sign shown on the left. We have encountered a number of situations where an AED is unavailable because it is locked away somewhere “safe and secure”. If you know of such situations, maybe in your own place of work, ask for the AED to be moved somewhere visible and accessible. Even a 5 minute delay in finding and gaining access to the device can alter the chance of survival from possibly 75% to 25%.

CPR is still required

Whilst shocking a patient with an AED can significantly improve their survival chances, cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is also required.  This is highlighted in the following extracts from the Resuscitation Council (UK) – 2010 Resuscitation Guidelines document..

“Provide good quality CPR while the AED is brought to the scene. Continue CPR whilst the AED is turned on, then follow the voice and visual prompts.” “The importance of early, uninterrupted chest compressions is emphasised throughout these guidelines. Interrupt CPR only when it is necessary to analyse the rhythm and deliver a shock. When two rescuers are present, the rescuer operating the AED applies the electrodes while the other continues CPR. The AED operator delivers a shock as soon as the shock is advised, ensuring that no one is in contact with the victim.”

Full CPR, including chest compression and mouth-to-mouth gives the best chance of survival.  however, if you are concerned about giving mouth-to-mouth resuscitation then the British Heart Foundation has produced humorous but very useful videos showing how anyone can do hands only CPR to the tune of “Staying Alive”

For best results – take a first aid course

For the best chance of saving a life, take a First Aid Course. Such courses will teach you how to safely carry out full CPR, including mouth-to-mouth, and there are specialist courses that teach most effective use of an AED. INDISkills training logo There are many organisations and training companies offering First Aid Courses and one or more should be local to you. If you or you company are located in the UK drop us an email at or visit our website at and we will be happy to help you find appropriate courses.

How to recognise a heart attack

Finally, you can find details of how to recognise the symptoms of a heart attack in lots of places such as the UK NHS website and there is a great video from Go Red for Women called ‘Just a Little Heart Attack’ below..