Can Anyone Use An AED?

Using an AED

An Automated External Defibrillator (AED) is a portable, electronic medical device that was designed to allow less trained individuals to provide lifesaving defibrillation to victims experiencing sudden cardiac arrest. 

Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) is a medical condition in which the heartbeat stops abruptly and unexpectedly. If not treated within minutes, SCA is fatal. 

AEDs were first designated by the FDA for public use in the 90’s for treatment of SCA. Good Samaritan laws, both federal and state followed soon thereafter, providing protection to “someone who renders aid in an emergency to an injured person on a voluntary basis.” Eventually, basic CPR training began to include AED use training. New York became the first state to place AEDs in school in 2003. In 2004, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) stated that all large passenger-airlines carry AEDs and have personnel trained in the use of AEDs. As time went on, it became clear that having an AED in high-risk and highly populated areas such as casinos, stadiums, airports, schools, etc. was more than needed.

Along with basic understanding of what sudden cardiac arrest is, there is another important piece of information. When a victim collapses due to SCA, there is a race against the clock to complete the 4 step Chain of Survival in less than 5 minutes in order for the victim to have a chance of surviving:

  1. Early Access – call 911
    Early CPR
    Early Defibrillation to restart heart
    Early Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support (ACLS)

Ideally, the victim should be treated by trained EMS personnel with an AED within the 5 minute window. However, statistics demonstrate that the average EMS “call to shock” time (time from the 911 call to having an AED at the side of the victim) is between 6 – 9 minutes and depending on the city and differing circumstances, can be longer.

  • As AEDs are becoming more prevalent in the public landscape, education and training allow public action to increase. The AHA and The American Red Cross have created the CPR/AED Training Message to encourage lay people to step forward to provide basic CPR in a medical emergency. It has been simplified to “Hands-Only CPR”, encouraging chest compressions without the necessity of mouth to mouth breathing.
  • Potential rescuers only need to learn the “3 Cs”:
  • Check the victim
  • Call 911 and get an AED if one is available
  • Compress the chest by pushing hard and fast

If there is an AED on the premises when someone collapses from SCA, the AED should be retrieved quickly. Use of an AED before EMS arrival increases the odds of survival by 80 percent. With simple audio and visual commands, AEDs are designed to be used by anyone. A bystander can easily open the device and follow instructions that could result in saving a life.

  • To answer the question “Can anyone use an AED?”, yes. If an AED is nearby, a bystander can and should administer basic CPR, and use the AED. By doing so, they might just save a life.