How to Use An AED: A Step-By-Step Guide

Automated External Defibrillator (AED)

What Does AED Stand For?

AED stands for Automated External Defibrillator, an invaluable device that has revolutionized emergency medical care. AEDs are portable electronic devices that can detect life-threatening cardiac arrhythmias and deliver electric shocks to restore normal heart rhythm. They are designed to be user-friendly, allowing even non-medical personnel to provide life-saving intervention during sudden cardiac arrests. These devices are equipped with adhesive electrode pads that are applied to the chest of a person experiencing sudden cardiac arrest. AEDs are designed to provide clear voice prompts and visual instructions to guide users through the process of using the device effectively.

Sudden cardiac arrest is a life-threatening condition that can strike anyone, anywhere, at any time. The prompt use of an AED is crucial in such situations, as it significantly increases the chances of survival. According to Science Daily, about 1,700 lives are saved in the US with bystanders using an AED. The device plays a vital role in bridging the gap between the occurrence of cardiac arrest and the arrival of emergency medical services, providing life-saving intervention during those critical moments.

In this article, we will explore the importance of AEDs in saving lives, how they work, the different types available, their placement and accessibility, the significance of AEDs in the workplace, and the importance of training and certification.

How Does an Automated External Defibrillator Work?

Using an AED involves several simple steps. Here is a step-by-step guide:

  1. Assess the Situation: Ensure the area is safe for both the rescuer and the victim.
  2. Call Emergency Services: Dial the local emergency number to alert medical professionals about the cardiac emergency.
  3. Turn On the AED: Switch on the AED and follow the voice prompts and visual cues.
  4. Apply Electrode Pads: Expose the chest and apply the electrode pads as indicated on the AED.
  5. Analyze Heart Rhythm: The AED will analyze the heart's rhythm to determine if a shock is needed.
  6. Clear the Victim: Ensure no one is touching the victim when the AED delivers a shock.
  7. Deliver the Shock: If advised by the AED, deliver a shock by pressing the designated button.
  8. Perform CPR: Follow the AED's prompts to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) until medical professionals arrive.

Types of AEDs

There are two main types of AEDs: Fully Automated and Semi-Automated. Both types of AEDs are equally effective in providing life-saving intervention, and the choice between them often depends on user preference and specific requirements.

Fully Automated AEDs: These devices are designed to deliver shocks automatically, without requiring the user to press a button. The AED will analyze the heart rhythm and deliver a shock if necessary. Fully automated AEDs are ideal for individuals with limited or no training in CPR and AED usage.

Semi-Automated AEDs: These devices require the user to press a button to deliver a shock once the AED has analyzed the heart rhythm. Semi-automated AEDs provide voice prompts and visual instructions to guide the user through the process.

Automated External Defibrillator Placement and Accessibility

The placement and accessibility of Automated External Defibrillators are critical factors that determine their effectiveness in responding to cardiac emergencies. Here are some key considerations for AED placement:

Visible and Clearly Marked: AEDs should be easily visible and clearly marked with prominent signage. This ensures that they can be quickly located during emergencies, even by individuals who may not be familiar with the facility.

Central and High-Traffic Areas: AEDs should be strategically placed in central locations with high foot traffic. Common areas such as lobbies, break rooms, or near entrances are ideal spots for maximum accessibility.

Reduced Response Time: Time is of the essence during cardiac emergencies. AEDs should be placed in areas where the response time is minimized, considering factors such as distance from potential risk areas or availability to trained personnel.

Easily Accessible: AEDs should be easily accessible, preferably in unlocked cabinets or wall-mounted cases. This ensures that anyone can retrieve the device quickly without delays caused by locked cabinets or cumbersome procedures.

Clearly Communicated Placement: Make sure the placement of AEDs is well-communicated to employees, visitors, and occupants of the facility. Utilize clear signage or floor plans that indicate the location of AEDs to facilitate their swift retrieval during emergencies.

Consider Specific Needs: Some workplaces or facilities may have specific considerations for AED placement. For instance, in healthcare settings, AEDs should be available in proximity to areas where patients with higher cardiac risk are treated.

Regular Maintenance and Monitoring: AEDs should undergo regular maintenance checks to ensure their functionality. This includes monitoring battery life, checking electrode pad expiration dates, and conducting routine equipment inspections as per the manufacturer's guidelines.

By strategically placing AEDs in visible, easily accessible, and high-traffic areas, their potential to save lives is maximized. Employees and visitors should be aware of the AED's location, and regular maintenance should be performed to keep the devices in optimal working condition.

AEDs in the Workplace: Saving Lives Through Preparedness

The workplace is a setting where individuals spend a significant portion of their time. It is also a place where unexpected medical emergencies, such as sudden cardiac arrests, can occur. In such critical situations, having an Automated External Defibrillator readily available can make a life-saving difference. By placing AEDs in the workplace, employers demonstrate their commitment to the safety and well-being of their employees. AEDs enable prompt response during emergencies, bridging the gap between the occurrence of cardiac arrest and the arrival of professional medical help.

Training and Certification for AED Use

While AEDs are designed to be user-friendly, proper training and certification in CPR and AED usage are essential. Training equips individuals with the knowledge and skills to respond effectively during emergencies. Many organizations offer certified training courses that cover CPR techniques, AED operation, and basic first aid. By undergoing training, employees gain the confidence and competence needed to use AEDs correctly and provide life-saving assistance until medical help arrives.


1. Can anyone use an AED in an emergency?
Yes, anyone can use an AED in an emergency. AEDs are designed to be used by both trained medical professionals and laypersons. The devices provide clear audio and visual instructions to guide users through the process.

2. Do AEDs require regular maintenance?
Yes, AEDs require regular maintenance to ensure their optimal performance. This includes checking the battery life, electrode pad expiration dates, and conducting routine equipment checks as recommended by the manufacturer.

3. Is it necessary for workplaces to have an AED?
While it may not be a legal requirement in all jurisdictions, having an AED in the workplace is highly recommended. AEDs can make a critical difference in saving lives during cardiac emergencies, demonstrating an organization's commitment to employee well-being and safety.

4. Who should be trained to use the AED in the workplace?
Ideally, multiple employees should be trained to use AEDs in the workplace. Designating a team of individuals who have undergone CPR and AED training ensures that someone is readily available to respond in case of an emergency.

5. How often should employees receive AED training in the workplace?
The frequency of AED training for employees in the workplace may vary depending on factors such as industry guidelines, organizational policies, and the nature of the workplace. Regular refresher courses are recommended to ensure that employees stay updated and confident in their AED usage skills.

The material provided in this article is for general information purposes only. It is not intended to replace professional/legal advice or substitute government regulations, industry standards, or other requirements specific to any business/activity. While we made sure to provide accurate and reliable information, we make no representation that the details or sources are up-to-date, complete or remain available. Readers should consult with an industrial safety expert, qualified professional, or attorney for any specific concerns and questions.


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Author: Herbert Post

Born in the Philadelphia area and raised in Houston by a family who was predominately employed in heavy manufacturing. Herb took a liking to factory processes and later safety compliance where he has spent the last 13 years facilitating best practices and teaching updated regulations. He is married with two children and a St Bernard named Jose. Herb is a self-described compliance geek. When he isn’t studying safety reports and regulatory interpretations he enjoys racquetball and watching his favorite football team, the Dallas Cowboys.