Sudden cardiac arrest can happen any time. The Heart and Stroke Foundation estimates that upwards of 45,000 Canadians die each year because of it. Survival rates fall between 7 and 10% for every minute that passes without defibrillation. That’s why having an automated external defibrillator (AED) on-site is so important.

Knowing how to use a defibrillator in the event of an emergency is crucial. While waiting to board a plane at the airport, a Manitoba man had a heart attack. A fast acting nurse grabbed the AED, started CPR and saved his life.

In this post, we’ll identify common mistakes made when using a defibrillator and how to avoid them.

Reading this post could help you save a life.

What is an AED?

Chances are you’ve walked by one in a public space a hundred times and never realized it. An AED is a portable electronic device used to help those experiencing sudden cardiac arrest.

An AED will shock the heart with electricity to restore a consistent beat.

This happens when a victim is experiencing cardiac arrhythmias (irregular heartbeats) from:

  • ventricular fibrillation (the heart quivering instead of pumping), or
  • pulseless ventricular tachycardia (a fast heart rate from improper electrical activity).

1. Improper AED storage

Your AED needs to be easy to access.

It should take you less than 3 minutes to retrieve the device — that’s 90 seconds each way.

You never know when you’re going to need to use one. Storing items on top or in front of the defibrillator slows you down when retrieving it.

Every second matters in these situations.

Placing it in a high traffic area is a good start. Placing your defibrillator in an easy-to-access wall cabinet is even better.

Zoll aed wall cabinet
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2. AED instructions

When someone collapses and you’re rushing to set an AED up, there’s going to be a lot of adrenaline rushing through you. It’s important in these situations to remain calm and focus on the instructions.

The average person with no medical training can use an AED, which uses audio and visual instructions. From basic instructions like calling emergency services to specifics like removing the victim’s shirt and jewelry.

You aren’t expected to be an AED master, but you need to follow its instructions.

3. CPR or AED

Knowing when to use an AED versus when to use CPR can be tricky.

Defibrillator manufacturer, Zoll, clarifies it this way:

The latest guidelines from resuscitation councils worldwide are clear: successful defibrillation must be supported with high-quality CPR. The AEDs first heart analysis is critical. If it calls for no shock, only high-quality CPR can lead to a shockable rhythm on the next heart analysis. If the first analysis does call for a shock, once it’s delivered, the stunned heart desperately needs blood as it tries to reorganize and regain its natural beat. Only high-quality CPR can supply a struggling heart with the oxygenated blood needed to restore a normal rhythm.

Many of the products in Zoll’s line-up feature Real CPR Help. This technology gives you real-time feedback on the rate and the depth of your compression.

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This means you can concentrate on saving a life and not humming The Bee-Gees ‘Stayin’ Alive‘ in your head.

4. Pad placement

If the pads are not properly placed, the AED will not send an electric shock to the victim.

As technology improves, this is becoming an easier mistake to avoid.

Zoll introduced an innovative solution to address this issue with the CPR-D pads for their AED Plus unit.

This one-piece pad means fast, accurate placement. It also includes a chest target that you can use for giving the most efficient CPR.

zoll aed plus cpr-d padz
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5. AED maintenance

Are you aware of the maintenance schedule for your AED?

Check the manufacturer’s website to see how often to replace batteries and pads.

Buy replacement pads and batteries.

Be aware of the dates and include AED maintenance in your monthly first aid checks.

Be ready:

You cannot anticipate a situation where you’re going to need to use an AED or perform CPR.

Being proactive and providing you and your staff with the proper training will go a long way in preparing for an emergency. The Canadian Red Cross and St John Ambulance provide CPR & AED combination training for all skill levels.


Does your workplace have an AED?

Here are 5 reasons why you should.


Jonathan McCallum

Market Segment Manager: Occupational Health, Industrial Hygiene & Environmental Monitoring

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