AED/Automated External Defibrillator (Defibs) – what you need to know!

What would you do if someone went into sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) in front of you?

  • You’d call 999 without even thinking about it, of course, but what about after that? While waiting for the paramedics to arrive, what steps would you take to boost their chance of survival?
  • Our emergency services are wonderful, but they’re not as quick as SCA – and sadly, they never will be.
  • When someone calls 999 for an SCA victim, this type of call falls under ‘Category 1’ (of four) – the most severe category. Category 1 incidents are pushed to the top of the priority list. Brand-new data shows us that the average (mean) ambulance response-time for Category 1 calls is 7:40 (at the time of writing, in November 2018). In other words, if you call 999 to report an SCA, it will be roughly eight minutes before the ambulance arrives – provided that the ambulance does not encounter any obstacles on its way over.
  • If they do not receive treatment until eight minutes after going into SCA, their chance of survival will have plummeted to around 20%
  • The sooner you start to administer treatment to an SCA victim, the better. Said treatment has to be CPR coupled with defibrillation: that is the only effective form of treatment.
  • For each minute that passes without the victim receiving CPR and defibrillation, their chance of survival drops by a further 10%.
  • If we now consider that 30,000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests (OHCAs) occur in the UK each year, and that the survival rate is currently less than 10%, we can see just how crucial those first few minutes are.

What is a Defib?

  • An Automated External Defibrillator (AED or just defib) is a small, light-weight, portable device that can read a person’s heart rhythm and deliver a shock if needed. It’s this shock that may restore a normal heart rhythm and potentially save a person’s life.

Ease of Use

  • AED’s are designed to be easy to use; even if you’ve never been trained to use one!
  • There are two types of AED’s; Semi-Automatic or a Fully Automatic defibrillator. The difference between the two is simple; with a semi-auto model, you control the delivery of the shock using the shock button and with a fully, the unit will deliver the shock automatically – leaving you to concentrate on chest compressions.


  • You will need to nominate a custodian, someone who can check on the unit on a weekly basis, they will need to complete a check list to ensure that the devise, if needed, is able to be deployed. This checklist will need to be sent to the North West Ambulance Service at the end of every month.
  • The AEDs pads are single use, so if used these will need to be replaced. The battery and pads have a shelf life, at the end of that time they will need to be replaced.


  • Although AEDs are designed to be used by anyone, a familiarisation session can give people a confidence boost if they ever find themselves in a situation where they need to use one.
  • Our familiarisation session can take place on site at a time to suit you, these sessions are available throughout Lancashire
  • A guide to defibrillators

How Heartbeat NWCC can help

  • As a cardiac charity we can get a considerable discount on these lifesaving machines which we simply pass onto you, we want them out in the community. Although we will buy the AED on your behalf these units are yours to maintain.

For more information please contact Siân at Heartbeat NWCC on 01772 717147 or email


Q. Can anyone use the Automated External Defibrillator?

A. The Resuscitation council (UK) made a statement in January 2009 to say it was the view of the Resuscitation Council (UK) that the use of AEDs should not be restricted to trained personnel.

Q. What about maintenance of the equipment?

A. The AED mainly takes care of itself. It conducts a self-test every day or week and signals when the battery is low or if a problem is detected. Electrodes (pads placed on the person who has suffered a cardiac arrest) need to be replaced every two years. The expiry date of the electrodes can be seen by looking at an easily identifiable panel on the outside of the AED. The AED therefore needs minimum maintenance but needs someone to inspect it regularly for the above.

Q. Are there any legal or insurance implications?

A. There are no legal or insurance risks associated with using a defibrillator. There have been no cases of anyone being sued in the UK and no instances of claims from people receiving poor first aid attention in the UK; this is a health and safety myth.

Q. Can I get it wrong?

A. Defibrillators are reliable and safe and will not allow a shock to be delivered unless the hearts rhythm requires it. They are therefore extremely unlikely to do any harm to a person who has suspected sudden cardiac arrest. You cannot worsen the casualty’s condition and the AED cannot make the situation worse than it is. For further information on the legal status for those that attempt resuscitation see the Resus Council’s document “A Guide to AEDs.

Q. Are they safe for the operator to use?

A. They are safe and present minimal risk of a rescuer receiving a shock. AEDs are extremely safe when used properly. The electric shock is programmed to go from one electrode pad to the other through the victim’s chest. Basic precautions, such as verbally warning others to stand clear and visually.

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