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What is an AED?

AED stands for Automated External Defibrillator.  It is a safe and easy to use device that delivers a therapeutic electric shock to the heart as treatment for a victim in Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA).  AEDs are mobile and often found on the walls of public venues and corporations across America, much like a fire extinguisher.

Why Do We Use AEDs?

During SCA the heart stops suddenly and in 90 percent of the cases the heart goes into a fatal rhythm knows as ventricular fibrillation. The only treatment to correct ventricular fibrillation is to defibrillate by applying an electric shock to the heart.  AEDs provide the public with access to defibrillators. They can be used on a victim of any age by people with no medical training. AED training is becoming more common in CPR & First Aid certification classes, CPR renewal classes as well as CPR instructor courses. AED training may even be a requirement when new CPR guidelines are released in 2015.

Brief History of AEDs

1st-mobile-defibClaude Beck, professor at Case Western Reserve University, is considered by many to be the godfather of defibrillation.  In 1947 he successfully used an electrical shock to restore a normal rhythm to the heart of a 14 year old boy.

Professor John Anderson, founder of HeartSine Technologies, is credited with creating the first portable defibrillator in 1966 in Belfast. [i] While this unit was portable it was nothing like the AEDs we see today, as it weighed 110 pounds and was charged by a car battery.

It is unclear when exactly the first AED was invented, but it is suggested that Arch Diack, a surgeon out of Portland, Oregon, invented the first unit[ii]. Reports put 1980 as the probable year.

AED Facts and Statistics

  • AEDs are easy to use
  • AEDs can be used on adults, children and infants
  • AED usage within the first three minutes of SCA can increase survival rates over 80%
  • 383,000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests annually in the U.S.
  • 4 out of 5 cardiac arrests (88%) occur at home, so it’s likely that if you know CPR and have access to an AED you may save the life of a loved one.
  • Less than 8% of people who suffer cardiac arrest outside of a hospital will survive
  • Ventricular fibrillation (VF) is present in almost 90% of adult cardiac arrest; the only way to stop VF is with a defibrillator
  • The sooner an AED is used the more likely it will work. A SCA victim losses 7-10% chance at survival for every minute after SCA that an AED is not used

What is AED Certification?

AED certification is an optional component offered when receiving CPR & First Aid Certification. AED training may even become a requirement when new CPR guidelines are released in 2015.  An AED skills test in front of a certified CPR instructor is required. AED and CPR certification is catered to two types of audiences: healthcare providers/professional emergency responders and the community or workplace responder.

What is CPR Certification? Learn more at our CPR 101 page.

How do I get AED, CPR & First Aid Certification?

AED and CPR is really easy to learn but many people aren’t sure where to get CPR classes that offer AED certification. To get certified in AED contact a national training agency to locate and schedule a class with an instructor in your area. You may need to go to the instructor’s location or if you have a group, an Instructor can come to your location. Nationally recognized training agencies that offer CPR Instructor courses include:

  • EMS Safety Services
  • American Heart Association
  • American Red Cross
  • National Safety Council
  • Emergency Care and Safety Institute (ESCI)
  • Health and Safety Institute (HSI)

The typical AED and CPR course is about four hours long and requires skills practice and skills testing in order to receive certification. More thorough and reputable programs also require a written exam.


Take a Class

Click Here to Get Certified in AED & CPR

Where Do AED Guidelines Come From?

Today, AED protocol is established from new CPR guidelines that come from a wealth of international resources. A bi-annual conference of CPR-related authorities is held to gather and review research in order to identify what works to improve cardiac arrest outcomes. Every five years new CPR guidelines are released that are updated with the most favorable research and science is developed into new teaching materials and techniques for rescuers.

In 1992 the International Liaison Committee on Resuscitation (ILCOR) was formed to provide a forum for communication between principal resuscitation organizations worldwide.[ii]

Current members of ILCOR include: v

  • American Heart Association (AHA)
  • European Resuscitation Council (ERC)
  • Heart & Stroke Foundation of Canada (HSFC)
  • Australian and New Zealand Committee on Resuscitation (ANZCOR)
  • Resuscitation Councils of South Africa (RSCA)
  • Inter American Heart Foundation (IAHF)
  • Resuscitation Council of Asia (RCA)

How To Use an AED:

First, power on the AED. An AED can be used on an adult, child, or infant. Follow the AED prompts. Place the AED near the victim’s head and power on the unit. Some models require you to push a button to turn it on, while others turn on automatically when you lift the lid.

Second, apply the AED pads. Expose the chest and wipe it dry of any moisture. Apply the pads to the chest according to the pads.

  • Place one pad on the right side of the chest, just below the collarbone
  • Place the other pad on the lower left side of the chest
  • Connect the pads to the AED if they’re not already connected

If there are two trained rescuers, one performs CPR while the other prepares the AED for use. The rescuer in charge of the AED will apply the pads around the hands of the person giving chest compressions. Do not stop CPR while the AED is being readied for use. The AED will prompt you to stop CPR when it is ready to analyze the heart rhythm.

Third, clear the victim and shock. It is critical that no one touches the victim or his clothing while the AED analyzes or delivers a shock.

When prompted by the AED to deliver a shock:

  • The AED user quickly looks up and down the entire victim to ensure no one is touching him and loudly states, “Everybody clear.”
  • The rescuer can now push the shock button.

AED Use on Children

For the purpose of AED use, a child is age 1-8, or weighs less than 55 lbs. An infant is less than 1 year old. Children and infants require a lower level of energy to defibrillate the heart.

Child victim: Use an AED with pediatric pads or equipment. If these are not available, use an AED with adult pads and settings.

Infant victim: It’s best to use a manual defibrillator. If one is not available, use an AED with pediatric pads or equipment. If these are not available, use an AED with adult pads and settings.

The Tools for AED

EMS Safety Services offers a wide range of supplies necessary for the safe and effective use of AEDs. Visit our online store to find the items that best suit your needs: