There has been a push to put automated external defibrillators (AEDs) in many public spaces, particularly arenas, gyms, schools, and just about any place where there may be physical exertion, large gatherings, or many floors that may make it difficult for EMTs to reach a patient in a timely manner. Some businesses have also purchased AEDs for their employees or guests/visitors, but are these AEDs really any good?
I thought about this last summer when I was filling in as an occupational health nurse at a major organization. There was an AED in the medical office, along with a few other life-saving pieces of equipment. Interestingly, it's not a given that a nurse knows how to use one of the AEDs, but when I took a CPR renewal course a few years ago, the EMT graciously took a few extra moments to show me one and how it worked.
I remember how ill at ease I felt. It was as if I had forgotten all my training. Doing CPR in the street was much more difficult than doing it in the hospital. I was shocked at how ill prepared I felt and I have never forgotten it. The event happened over 25 years ago - I was pregnant with my oldest child.
As I took over the medical office for several weeks, I double checked my area and I looked to see if the AED was charged. I had to check to see if the charge light was on and if it was, we were ok. But, it occurred to me to wonder if anyone is checking the AEDs that are placed in so many public places now. We have rules about checking fire extinguishers and alarms, but are there rules for AEDs. Last week, I learned, apparently not.
According to this article from CBC, Defibrillators in public buildings need more upkeep, there is a problem with not only batteries running out, but machines not functioning properly at all. If this is the case, then it might be best not to have them at all. In my opinion, it is more dangerous to believe you have life saving equipment on hand that doesn't work rather than none at all.
AEDs do have their place. Statistics show that if CPR and an AED are used within the first three minutes following the heart stopping, there is a 75% chance of survival. So, what to do? Do you have any solutions as to how to ensure the AEDs are maintained properly?
Add on info:
In 2010, the American Heart Association updated its CPR guidelines to a much simpler way of doing things. You can read about it here: New CPR Guidelines.