Over 424,000 sudden cardiac arrests occur each year, according to the Sudden Cardiac Foundation. Sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) occurs when a person becomes unconscious with no pulse and no breathing. This can happen to anyone, anywhere. This person is clinically dead.
But according to the American Heart Association, rescuers who know cardiopulmonary resuscitation and use an automated external defibrillator (AED) can increase the chance of survival to 50 to 74 percent.
What AEDs Do
Some cardiac events are caused by a problem with the heart’s rhythm, and a correctly administered electric shock is needed to get the heart beating normally again. A portable AED device detects a person’s heart activity and, when needed, automatically gives an electric shock to restore a regular heart rhythm.
In recent years, AEDs have become available for lay rescuers to use. AEDs have been proven safe and do not administer a shock unless the victim has a life-threatening, erratic heart rhythm. Using voice instruction, AEDs lead responders through the steps for use. Most CPR classes now include instruction on using the devices.
Because they’re affordable and easy to use, AEDs have become standard equipment in many public places such as malls, airports, hotels, churches, health clubs, swimming facilities, offices and workplaces of all sizes.
In some situations, your business may be required to have an AED. Or, along with periodic employee training, it may be part of an emergency response plan designed to give rescuers a chance to keep a person alive until professional medical help arrives.
But as with other infrequently used emergency equipment, it’s easy to put an AED on the shelf and forget it. The devices need regular testing and maintenance – including battery changes or pad replacements – to remain operable. The MN Resuscitation Consortium at the University of Minnesota has developed a fact sheet to help AED owners understand steps necessary to maintain their devices. If you own an AED, consult the owner’s manual for instructions on how often to replace pads and batteries. And in some cases, technology advances so quickly that you may need to replace your device.
Having the correct, properly maintained equipment available is one part of being prepared for a cardiac health emergency. Being trained in CPR is another step. Find online courses or a classroom course near you by using locators on the American Heart Association or American Red Cross websites.