AED Lifesaving Equipment
by Mark Blank

AEDís Ė Automated External Defibrillators, portable electric devices that deliver a shock to the heart, have become one of the most exciting rescue tools on the market today. They are used on people who have suffered Sudden Cardiac Arrest. Statistics have shown four out of five CPR attempts fail. These statistics also show that Sudden Cardiac Arrest patients suffering Ďsudden chaotic heart rhythmí can only be revived using electric defibrillation. According to the American Heart Association CPR rescue attempts using electric defibrillation or AEDís improves survival rates by as much as 49%!

Facts on Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA)

AED Popularity

AEDís have received an enormous amount of publicity from major media outlets to local papers. AEDís are finding their way into police cars, fire trucks, airports, sporting venues, swimming and athletic facilities, golf courses, shopping malls, corporate office buildings, off-shore businesses, schools and anywhere where people work and live where rescue response time is greater than four minutes.

"It will be very reasonable to assume that within the next five to ten years, most people will know how to use a machine like this," says Ramin Ebrahimi, a cardiologist and professor from the University of CaliforniaóIrvine.

American Airlines was the first major US airlines to stock AEDís. Of the first eight American Airline passengers who were given shocks to restart their hearts, six survived. United, Delta, and US Airways should be fully equipped this month. Chicago OíHare International and Midway airports are the first in the country to make AEDís available for emergency public use in their terminals. The Federal Aviation Administration is currently under a congressional mandate to decide whether AEDís should be mandatory on all air carriers and at all airports, (Convene)

Eventually, public facilities not having a device on site could face a liability risk. Busch Gardens was found negligent for failing to properly respond to a cardiac arrest because personnel lacked essential medical equipment Ė including an automated defibrillator. (US News and World Report)

What Are AEDís?

AEDís are lifesaving devices, which are used by minimally trained rescuers to save victims of Sudden Cardiac Arrest. They are small, almost lunch-box-sized versions of their cousin defibrillators that are found in hospitals and advanced care ambulances. Unlike their larger cousins, that need to be plugged-in and operated by trained medical personnel, AEDís are small, lightweight, run on a lithium battery and automatically determine whether the patient needs defibrillation. A computer chip employs "talk-you-through" technology that actually speaks to the operator guiding him or her through a few simple steps. Theyíre so simple that even a child can be trained on the use of an AED.

Safety and Operation

A common misconception about AEDís is their use around pools and wet areas. One would suppose that you should not mix electricity and water, but AEDís are safe for pool deck areas with common sense precautions. Victims should be moved to a dry area of the deck, and wiped down with a towel before applying an AED. A feature common on most AEDís is an internal voice that instructs rescuers when to administer CPR and when to stand back while the AED delivers each shock.

AED Features

A number of AEDís are now available and as they vary in price they also vary in features and performance. When choosing an AED, the decision-maker should look at the features and benefits before looking at the price tag. Important considerations in choosing an AED are:

The AEDís designers should have addressed all of the factors that contribute to confusion and uncertainty at an emergency to develop a reliable AED. Ease of use creates confidence in the user, which helps to minimize the possibility of errors.


AEDís are Class II Medical Devices and must be used by trained personnel under the care of a physician. This means someone on staff must have training and a physician must issue a prescription for the facility to purchase an AED. Call Kiefer and Associates or your local American Heart Association, Red Cross or National Safety Council to assist in locating medical direction or training. Training is available through several organizations. The standard program requires a CPR certificate and three hours of AED instruction.

Training Resources

Adolph Kiefer and Associates 1-800-323-4071, or on-line at:

American Heart Association Ė see local director

National Safety Council Ė contact local affiliate

American Red Cross Ė contact local affiliate

Educational Resources

Nissha Chandra, MD and Mary Fran Hazinski, MSN, RN, "Basic Life Support for Healthcare Providers," American Heart Association, Dallas, Texas, 1994

Marilyn Chase, "More Workplaces Make Defibrillators Part of First-Aid Kit, " The Wall Street Journal, 1998

Kathleen Doheny, "More Airlines Bring Portable Defibrillators On Board, " Convene, 1999

David L. Hebert, Esq., "Heart in the Right Place," American Fitness, 1999

National Safety Council, "Automated External Defibrillation," Boston, Jones and Bartlett Publishers, 1998

Mary May Newman and Jim Christenson, MD, "Challenging Sudden Death: A Community Guide to Help Save Lives: Catalyst Research & Communication, Carmel, Indiana

Rachel K. Sobel, "A Shocking Story: Handy Defibrillators: U.S. News & World Report, 1998

Myron L. Weisefedlt, MD, Chairman, "Public Access Defibrillation," Task Force on AED, American Heart Association, Dallas, Texas, 1995


Thank you to pool managers and safety specialists Pat Fosella, Debbie Dorsey, Roxy Lloyd, and Lynda Kuhne for assistance with this article.


Mark Blank is a writer in the Chicago area who has written numerous articles on health and safety issues for various health, sports, fire/rescue publications.