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Defibrillators (AEDS) – Your questions answered.

Some facts from the British Heart Foundation:

  • A Cardiac Arrest can affect anyone, from any age group, gender or background.
  • There are around 30,000 cardiac arrests outside of a hospital environment in the UK every year.
  • Currently less than 10% of these people survive.
  • With speedy treatment, including both CPR (Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation) and a defibrillator, chances of survival could rise by an amazing 80%.

What is a Cardiac Arrest?

In a cardiac arrest, the heart’s electrical system malfunctions and stops pumping, resulting in a sudden loss of consciousness and collapse. (A cardiac arrest is different to a heart attack, where a person is more likely to be conscious and aware of pain.)

Although cardiac arrest can affect anybody, not just sportspeople who are stretching their bodies to the limits, there are some risk factors which may make it more likely, including increased age, stress levels and less healthy lifestyle choices.

High-profile sports stars

A cardiac arrest can hit for many different reasons, but invariably results in a very sudden and unexpected collapse, such as was experienced by footballers Christian Eriksen while playing for Denmark in Euro 2020, or Fabrice Muamba while playing for Bolton Wanderers in a 2012 Premiership match. Both survived, thanks in no small part to the fast use of on-site defibrillators.

What is a defibrillator and how will it help?

A defibrillator, also known as an AED (Automatic External Defibrillator), is a battery-operated device which, when used in the event of cardiac arrest, will first analyse heart rhythms and then, if necessary, administer a shock. This all happens via pads stuck to the chest, the effect being the re-starting of the heart. The shock does not jump-start the heart, like a car battery, but instead it stops the heart and allows it to re-set, rather like rebooting a computer. Using a defibrillator in the minutes following a cardiac arrest in combination with CPR can dramatically increase the chances of survival.

Do I need training to use an AED?

You may have seen defibrillators used in hospital dramas, where the highly qualified surgeon shouts ‘Clear!’ and everybody backs off. In the real world, AED’s do not need a specialist to operate them and the device will automatically talk the user through the process, including advising on CPR. But training is still important: it will increase the user’s familiarity with the technology, improve their knowledge of CPR and will allow smoother, calmer use in the event of an emergency. Training is available free of charge online from a number of sources, or you can attend a training course run by an organisation such as the British Heart Foundation or St John Ambulance. If you purchase an AED the manufacturer may also offer training options.

How do you use an AED?

It’s a lot simpler than you might imagine. The device, once activated at the touch of a button, will talk the user through the process, starting with where to place the pads and talking through CPR procedure. Once the heart rhythms have been analysed and the device has signalled that it needs to administer a shock it will ask the user to ensure nobody is touching the body – this is not because of any danger from the shock but is because anyone touching the body could dissipate the level of power administered and lower its effectiveness.

The user doesn’t need to make any decision, as the AED itself will first analyse the heart rhythm of the patient and then will only ask you to press a second button if necessary. Some AED models don’t even need a second button to be pressed as the process is entirely automated.

What different AED’s are available?

AEDs can be fully or semi-automated. Fully automated models do not require a second button to be pressed to administer the shock, whereas semi-automated ones do. Choosing between these two options is affected by multiple factors, such as the likelihood of first aid trained people using the machine, and it is advisable to discuss what will suit your situation with a specialist sales advisor.

You will also need to purchase a protective box for your AED: these are available with a number of different features which you may find useful. The box could be thermostatically controlled, reducing the risk that cold weather will affect the battery, and some boxes can be wirelessly linked to a chosen network of first responders who will be notified as soon as the box is opened. Again, it is a good idea to discuss your needs with your sales advisor who will be able to help you decide.

Where should I put an AED?

  • Your AED should be positioned in a high traffic, very visible location, for the easiest access.
  • Ensure you have the property owner’s permission to position the box there indefinitely.
  • Bear in mind you may need a power source for the box.
  • It is advisable to consider whether the position of the box will be particularly susceptible to the cold, as low temperatures can cause the battery to drain faster.

Do we need to maintain our AED?

Most AEDs run a regular self-check and will notify of any issues in connectivity or power supply with an audible signal. Pads and batteries generally last between 2 – 5 years before they need replacing. (See your manufacturers leaflet for details and make a note on a card inside the AED box of when the replacements are due.) Of course, pads will need to be replaced if the AED is used, while batteries will need to be recharged or replaced.

In particularly cold weather it is advisable to move any exposed AED to a warmer site, while ensuring that there is a clear notice to say where it has been moved to and how to access it. This is to prevent battery drain and ensure the device is ready to work at 100% if needed.

How can we fund an AED?

The benefits of using an AED to back up CPR first aid are so great that many organisations and charities support their purchase by way of grants. The government is putting a considerable amount of money into providing more in public areas and have also pledged that all state schools will have AEDs and all schoolchildren be trained in CPR by the end of the 22/23 school year.

If you are not sure how you can fund an AED, download our PDF with information on where to look for defibrillator grants.

Download: Guide to Applying for Defibrillator Grants

I need more advice on which AED to buy. Who should I call?

Our Customer Service team will be more than happy to give you advice and help you in your planning for an AED. Call them on 0800 328 5028 or email:

Go to our Defibrillator range

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