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AEDs: A Critical Part of First-Aid Strategy

Ray Chishti, Editor, J. J. Keller & Associates

Nearly 350,000 people die each year of sudden cardiac arrest (SCA). The chances of surviving an SCA event without the aid of an automatic external defibrillator (AED) are one in 20. However, with an AED, chances of survival improve to one in three. As a result, the use of this first-aid tool could save more than 100,000 lives per year.

What Is An SCA Event?

When someone has an SCA event, the heart begins to pump irregularly and ineffectively. The heart muscle may “quiver,” instead of contracting normally. The heart contractions may be uncoordinated, or the contractions may be happening so fast that the heart cannot refill with blood.


The symptoms of cardiac arrest are very sudden and dramatic. The victim may complain of pain or tightness in the chest; pain in the arm, neck or jaw; or begin to sweat before collapsing and showing no signs of a pulse. At this point, emergency medical help must be summoned and the AED should be used.

The victim’s chest is completely bare, all visible jewelry or medicine patches are removed, and the electrodes are attached. Areas where the patches attach may have to be dried or shaved. Once the AED is turned on, it will prompt the operator through the necessary steps. If the AED does not sense a shockable event, no shock is given. If a shockable event is noted, the AED will sound a warning before applying the shock or will prompt the operator to apply a shock.

Real-Life Scenario

John and Lyle were working late to finish a project. Lyle had been complaining of indigestion and pain in his neck and jaw. All of a sudden, Lyle stood up from his desk, clutched his chest and collapsed on the floor.

John rushed to his side and checked for signs of life. Not finding any, John went into the hall, located an AED (he was trained to use one) and brought it back to where he left Lyle. As he was taking the AED out of the case, John realized he should call 911.

After dialing 911 and explaining the situation, John got Lyle prepped to receive the electric shock from the AED. After Lyle received two jolts from the AED, his pulse returned. John continued to monitor Lyle’s vital signs until the paramedics arrived and took over.

Let’s talk about this. What did John do right?

  • He checked Lyle for signs of life.
  • He got the AED and used it properly.
  • He monitored Lyle’s vital signs until emergency medical technicians arrived.

What could John have done differently? He didn’t dial 911 immediately; instead, he went for the AED first and then remembered to call 911.

What do you think should happen next? John should review the company’s emergency reporting policy, which should outline the step-by-step instructions of what to do in such an incident.

Training Tips

Here are six things you can do to address first aid for heart-related issues.

  1. Review with coworkers the signs and symptoms of heart attacks in both men and women.
  2. The American Red Cross says that in cases of suspected cardiac failure, you should call emergency services first, before providing care if you are alone.
  3. All those who are expected to use AEDs should receive formal training and certification on the specific AED in the workplace.
  4. If possible, have an AED trainer available to show how AEDs work and to allow the trainees to get hands-on experience with one.
  5. Show the trainees where AEDs are located in the facility.
  6. Review with coworkers the emergency procedures for your facility—in particular, how to summon emergency help and who is responsible for AED use. WMHS

About the Author:

Ray Chishti is an Editor at J. J. Keller & Associates, a nationally recognized compliance resource company that offers products and services to address the range of responsibilities held by business professionals. Chishti specializes in workplace safety topics such as employee training, fall protection, personal protective equipment and fire protection. He is the Writer and Editor of J. J. Keller’s Safety Training Talks and OSHA Compliance for Transportation manuals, and is a Speaker at webcasts and other educational events. For more information, visit and

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