Automated External Defibrillator: What Is an AED and Do You Need One?

automated external defibrillator

What Is an Automated External Defibrillator?

An automated external defibrillator (AED), is a critical life-saving device designed to treat sudden cardiac arrest. It delivers an electric shock through the chest to the heart to restore a normal heart rhythm. AEDs are designed for use by the general public, featuring simple instructions and automated voice prompts to guide a user through the process. Their accessibility and ease of use make them essential in public spaces such as airports, schools, and shopping centers, and high-traffic areas like schools, gyms, malls, and offices where the likelihood of witnessing a cardiac arrest is higher. They are also crucial in remote locations where medical response times might be slower, significantly increasing the chances of survival in emergency scenarios.

How to Determine If You Need One

Determining if you need an AED involves assessing the risk of cardiac emergencies in your environment. Consider factors like the age and health demographics of individuals frequenting the location, the physical intensity of activities performed, and the distance to the nearest medical facility. Organizations should also comply with local regulations that might mandate AED for business in certain settings, reinforcing the commitment to workers’ safety.


How Does an AED Work?

An AED machine works by first analyzing the heart's electrical activity to determine whether a shock is necessary. If it detects a life-threatening cardiac arrhythmia, such as ventricular fibrillation or ventricular tachycardia, the device prepares to deliver a controlled electric shock. The user is prompted to press a button to administer the shock, which aims to halt the abnormal rhythm and allow the heart to reestablish an effective rhythm. The automation and guidance provided by the AED make it possible for even untrained bystanders to assist effectively during a cardiac emergency.

How to Use an AED Machine: Basic Steps

  1. Ensure Safety: Before approaching the patient, make sure the area is safe for both you and the victim.
  2. Call for Help: Dial emergency services immediately to ensure professional help is on the way.
  3. Turn On the AED: Press the power button to activate the AED machine. The device will begin to provide audio instructions.
  4. Expose the Chest: Remove or cut through any clothing to expose the victim's bare chest. Make sure the chest is dry.
  5. Attach Pads: Place the adhesive pads on the chest as indicated by the diagrams on the pads. One pad should be placed on the upper right chest and the other below the left breast.
  6. Stand Clear: Ensure that no one, including yourself, is touching the patient. Check the surroundings and verbally confirm that everyone is clear.
  7. Analyze Heart Rhythm: Allow the AED to analyze the patient’s heart rhythm. Keep clear of the patient during this analysis.
  8. Deliver Shock: If the AED determines a shock is necessary, it will prompt you to press the shock button. For automatic models, the shock will be delivered without button activation. Again, ensure everyone is standing clear.
  9. Perform CPR: After the shock, perform CPR if you are trained. The AED may instruct you to continue with CPR until medical help arrives or the device tells you otherwise.
  10. Reanalyze: The AED will periodically reanalyze the heart rhythm and advise if additional shocks are needed. Continue to follow the device’s instructions until emergency services take over.

These steps provide a basic guideline on how to effectively use an AED machine during a cardiac emergency. Always remember to stay calm and follow the automated prompts closely.


Types of AED Devices

  • Fully Automatic AEDs: These defibrillators detect arrhythmias and deliver shocks automatically without user intervention, providing clear voice instructions throughout the process. Ideal for environments where users may hesitate to manually operate the device.
  • Semi-Automatic AEDs: Requires the user to press a button to administer the shock after the device detects a shockable heart rhythm. Offers more control to the operator and is commonly used in many public and private settings.
  • Wearable AEDs: Designed for patients at high risk of sudden cardiac arrest, these devices are worn like a vest and provide continuous monitoring and rapid response capabilities.
  • Pediatric AEDs: Equipped with special features and pads that deliver a lower-intensity shock suitable for young children and infants. Essential for schools and places frequented by children.

Each type of AED is tailored to specific needs and environments, enhancing accessibility and effectiveness in emergency cardiac interventions.


Key Features of an Effective AED

  • Ease of Use: Clear, simple instructions and voice prompts to guide users through the process, making it accessible for people without medical training.
  • Self-Testing Mechanisms: Regular automatic self-checks to ensure the device is always ready for use, alerting users to any maintenance needs.
  • Fast Shock Delivery: Capability to analyze heart rhythms and deliver a shock quickly, as time is crucial in cardiac emergencies.
  • High Durability and Reliability: Rugged designs that withstand varied environmental conditions and rough handling.
  • Battery Life: Long-lasting batteries that provide a reliable power source, critical for ensuring the AED is operational when needed.
  • Visual and Audio Cues: To assist in proper pad placement and resuscitation procedures, ensuring correct usage and effectiveness.
  • Data Recording: Capability to store detailed event data, which can be crucial for medical professionals reviewing the patient’s response to treatment.

These features collectively ensure that an AED not only functions optimally when required but also supports untrained users in saving lives effectively.


Top Recommended AED Models

Philips HeartStart Home

The Philips HeartStart Home is a trailblazer in the aed machine for home category, being the first and only defibrillator available without a prescription. It features advanced technology and proven therapy to help users provide emergency care in cases of sudden cardiac arrest. The device is equipped with intuitive SMART Pads and comprehensive voice prompts, making the rescue process as straightforward as possible.

Key Features:

  • Prescription-Free: Easily accessible for home use.
  • SMART Analysis: Assesses heart rhythm and prevents unnecessary shocks.
  • Integrated SMART Pads: Provide feedback and adjust instructions based on user actions.
  • Quick Shock Capability: Delivers a shock quickly after CPR to improve survival chances.
  • Voice and CPR Guidance: Offers step-by-step instructions during the rescue process.
  • Designed for All Ages: Suitable for adults and children under 55 lbs.

Avive Connect AED

The Avive Connect AED sets a new standard in the automated external defibrillator market, combining unparalleled portability with advanced connectivity. As the smallest and lightest FDA-approved AED, it is specifically designed for easy use and management, making it an ideal choice for various environments from homes to businesses. Its innovative REALConnect™ Services enhance device management through robust features such as remote monitoring, communication with 911, and near real-time notifications.

Key Features:

  • High Resolution Touchscreen: For clear, intuitive user interactions
  • Training Mode: Allows users to practice without using actual AED functions.
  • Rechargeable Battery: Long-lasting and eco-friendly.
  • Child Mode and Spanish Button: Increases usability across diverse situations.
  • Wireless Incident Data Access: Quick data retrieval using an onscreen QR code.


ZOLL AED 3 transforms the defibrillator experience with its Real CPR Help® technology, providing real-time feedback and support to rescuers. This AED enhances the confidence of users with its intuitive design and advanced features, making it highly effective in both public and private settings. Its RapidShock Analysis shortens rhythm analysis time significantly, ensuring that shocks are delivered as quickly as possible.

Key Features:

  • Real CPR Help: Guides rescuers in delivering CPR.
  • RapidShock Analysis: Reduces pause time between CPR and shock delivery.
  • Rugged Design: IP55 rating ensures durability against elements.
  • Integrated Pediatric Rescue: Uses universal pads for both adults and children.
  • Touchscreen Display: Offers easy access to information and settings.
  • WiFi Connectivity: Allows for automatic status reports and data transmission.

Defibtech Lifeline VIEW AED

The Defibtech Lifeline VIEW AED introduces a unique approach to emergency response with its full-motion video display, providing step-by-step instructions through a full-color interactive screen. This AED machine is exceptionally user-friendly, making it suitable for a wide range of users, from untrained bystanders to professional rescuers. It stands out for its ease of maintenance and the ability to update protocols easily.

Key Features:

  • Real-time Protocol Selection: Adapts to different CPR techniques.
  • Biphasic Technology: Delivers effective and safe shocks.
  • Award-Winning Design: Recognized for ergonomic, lightweight design.
  • Durable: Performs well in demanding conditions.
  • Full Color Interactive Display: Offers video instructions for emergencies.
  • Data Accessibility: Data can be recorded or retrieved from the device using a data card.


Maintaining Your AED

Regular Checks

Regular maintenance checks are essential to ensure your AED remains functional and ready at a moment's notice. It's advisable to perform a visual inspection weekly to check for any signs of damage or wear. Also, follow the manufacturer's guidelines to conduct more comprehensive monthly and annual reviews that include testing battery levels and verifying that software updates are applied. Ensuring that your AED is operational at all times can be the difference between life and death in a cardiac emergency.

Battery and Pad Replacement

The battery and pads of an AED are critical components that require regular replacement to maintain the device's reliability. Batteries should be replaced according to the manufacturer's expiration date, typically every four to five years. Pads also have an expiration date, generally between two to four years, and should be replaced even if unused. It's crucial to check these components regularly and keep spare batteries and pads on hand to avoid any lapse in readiness, ensuring the AED is always prepared to save lives.


When to Have an AED at Home

Deciding whether to invest in an automated external defibrillator (AED) for home use is a significant decision that can have far-reaching implications for family safety and emergency preparedness. The value of having an AED machine for home largely depends on several factors, including the specific health risks present within the household and the potential to save a life during a cardiac emergency.

Considerations for Home AED Investment:

  1. Health Risk Factors: Homes with individuals who have known cardiac conditions, a history of sudden cardiac arrest, or other severe heart problems should strongly consider an AED. The presence of such medical conditions increases the likelihood of a cardiac emergency, where having immediate access to an AED could prove lifesaving.
  2. Response Time: In many emergencies, the response time of medical services can be critical. For homes located in rural areas or places with potentially slow emergency response times, having an AED can bridge the crucial gap until professional help arrives.
  3. Ease of Use: Modern AEDs are designed to be user-friendly, equipped with clear instructions and voice prompts that guide even untrained individuals through the process of performing defibrillation. This accessibility increases the effectiveness of emergency response performed by household members.
  4. Training and Maintenance: While AEDs are designed for simplicity, basic training on how to use the device can enhance confidence and efficiency in an emergency. Additionally, regular maintenance is required to ensure the AED is in working condition, which includes checking battery life and pad expiration dates.
  5. Cost vs. Benefit: The cost of acquiring and maintaining an AED can be considerable. However, when balanced against the potential to save a life, the investment may seem justifiable, particularly in households with high-risk individuals.

Ultimately, the presence of an AED can make a critical difference in outcomes during cardiac emergencies at home.


AED for Business and Industrial Settings

Choosing the Right Location for Your AED

When placing an AED in industrial settings, consider factors such as accessibility and visibility. The device should be easily reachable within a few minutes from any location on the premises. It’s important to install AEDs near areas of high worker density, such as assembly lines or cafeterias, and at main junctions where they can be seen and accessed quickly. Additionally, environmental factors like dust, temperature, and humidity must be considered to ensure the device remains functional.

Accessibility and Signage

Clear signage should also be placed to guide employees to the AED location during an emergency. Effective signage ensures that in an emergency, the AED can be located and accessed swiftly—crucial minutes and seconds can be the difference between life and death. Signs should be highly visible and placed at key points throughout a facility to direct individuals to the nearest AED. Additionally, the AED should be accessible, not locked away or obstructed, and ideally positioned at an accessible height for all potential users. Ensuring these elements are in place significantly enhances the effectiveness of emergency response efforts.

Training Employees on AED Use

Training and certification in the use of Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) are crucial for empowering employees to act confidently during cardiac emergencies. Options for training include onsite courses provided by certified instructors, online courses that offer flexibility and ease of access, and regular refresher sessions to keep skills sharp. Many organizations also integrate AED training with CPR (Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation) courses to provide comprehensive emergency response education. Certifications are typically provided upon completion, validating the employee's capability to operate AEDs effectively. Regular drills and training updates can help maintain proficiency and readiness in a workforce.

Creating an AED Response Plan

Developing an effective AED response plan involves several key steps.

  • First, assess the specific needs of your location to determine where AEDs should be placed for optimal accessibility.
  • Include clear protocols for identifying and reacting to cardiac emergencies, ensuring employees know how to recognize signs of cardiac arrest and operate the AED.
  • Training a dedicated response team within your staff who are regularly drilled on the procedure can enhance preparedness.
  • Lastly, coordinate your plan with local emergency services to ensure a seamless handoff when they arrive, which is critical for the patient's survival and recovery.


Legal Requirements for AED Installation

As of now, OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) does not mandate the placement of Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) in the workplace. However, OSHA strongly endorses their availability as part of a comprehensive first aid program that can enhance safety and potentially save lives in emergency situations. OSHA partners with the American Heart Association to encourage businesses to install AEDs and provide necessary training to employees. While not required by federal law, compliance with these recommendations can significantly contribute to workplace safety and may be regulated by state or local laws that provide specific requirements regarding AEDs.


AED Machine FAQs

What is AED vs CPR?

An AED (automated external defibrillator) is a device that delivers an electric shock to help restore a normal heart rhythm during sudden cardiac arrest, whereas CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) involves manual chest compressions and possibly breaths to maintain vital blood flow to the heart and brain until normal heart function can be restored.

What is the 3 minute rule for AED?

The 3 minute rule for an AED emphasizes the importance of quickly applying the device within three minutes of a cardiac arrest to maximize the chances of survival, as the success rate of defibrillation decreases significantly with each passing minute.

How many times AED can be used?

An AED can be used multiple times as long as it has functional batteries and electrode pads. Each set of pads is typically single-use, and the batteries need to be periodically replaced according to manufacturer guidelines.

What are the risks of using an AED?

The risks of using an AED are minimal but can include rare instances of inappropriate shocks if the device misinterprets heart rhythm, potential interference with implanted pacemakers, and minor burns or skin irritation under the electrode pads.

When not to use an AED?

Do not use an AED if the patient is conscious or breathing normally, in a moving vehicle, or in wet or explosive environments. Additionally, it should not be used on infants younger than 1 year unless specifically designed for infants.

TRADESAFE stands as a pioneering force in industrial safety, offering an array of solutions designed to protect people, places, and equipment across various settings. Our commitment to excellence is reflected in our comprehensive range of products, from Lockout Tagout (LOTO) supplies to workplace signs, all crafted to surpass rigorous safety standards.

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.