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Automated External Defibrillator (AED) FAQs


What is an AED?

An AED is a lightweight, portable device that delivers an electric shock through the chest to the heart. The shock can stop an irregular rhythm and allow a normal rhythm to resume in the heart during Sudden Cardiac Arrest.  Sudden Cardiac Arrest is an abrupt loss of heart function. If it’s not treated within minutes, it quickly leads to death. Most Sudden Cardiac Arrests result from ventricular fibrillation. This is a rapid and unsynchronized heart rhythm starting in the heart’s lower pumping chambers (the ventricles). The heart must be “defibrillated” quickly because of a victim’s chance of surviving drops by 7 to 10 percent for every minute a normal heartbeat isn’t restored.

Why are defibrillators important?

Defibrillators make it possible for more people to respond to a medical emergency where defibrillation is required. Because defibrillators are portable, they can be used by non-medical personnel. They can be made part of emergency response programs that also includes calling 9-1-1 and prompt delivery of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). All three of these activities are vital to improving survival from Sudden Cardiac Arrest. 

How does an AED work?

A built-in computer checks a victim’s heart rhythm through adhesive electrodes. The computer calculates whether defibrillation is needed. If it is, a recorded voice will instruct the rescuer to press the shock button on a semi-automatic defibrillator.  A fully-automatic AED will shock the victim on its own, with no need for a button. This shock momentarily stuns the heart and stops all activity. It gives the heart the chance to resume beating effectively. Voice instructions guide the user through the process.  Defibrillators advise a shock only for ventricular fibrillation or another life-threatening condition called pulseless ventricular tachycardia.

Who can use a defibrillator?

Non-medical personnel such as police, fire service personnel, flight attendants, security guards and other lay rescuers who have been properly trained can use AEDs.


Are AEDs safe to use?

AEDs are safe to use by anyone who’s been trained to operate them. Studies have shown that 90% of the time, defibrillators are able to detect a rhythm that should be defibrillated. And 95% of the time they are able to recommend NOT shocking when the computer shows defibrillation is not indicated.


Where should AEDs be placed?

All first-response vehicles including ambulances, law enforcement vehicles, and many fire engines should have an AED.  Defibrillators also should be placed in public areas such as sports arenas, gated communities, airports, office complexes, doctors’ offices and any other public or private place where large numbers of people gather or where people at high risk for heart attacks live or travel to.


Where can I get AED/CPR training?

As an American Heart Association authorized training center, Cardiac Life offers a complete line of AHA classes and products.  Feel free to call us at 866-710-1970 or 585-NEED-CPR for more details or check the training section on our website.