Each year, more than 300,000 people will suffer sudden cardiac arrest (SCA). Every minute that passes before life-saving measures can begin results in a 10 percent decrease in the likelihood of survival. That is why CPR and the use of an Automated External Defibrillator (AED) have become the ideal way for non-medical professional bystanders to help a person in distress. In the event a person collapses, it is important to follow these steps.
1. Make Sure The Surrounding Area is Safe
One of the first things you should do to help a person suffering from SCA is to take stock of their surroundings. Your efforts will be fruitless if you place yourself in danger to help them. If they are in an unsafe location take a few seconds to get them (and you!) to safety. Be sure to make special note of any metal surfaces they may be laying on. Remember, AED’s use electricity and electricity is trying to find a ground. Placing them on a metal surface can endanger those who are attempting to help them.
2. Begin CPR
Using an AED is not a substitute for good old-fashioned CPR, but it can augment essential lifesaving efforts. Be sure to perform chest compressions on a hard, flat surface at 100 compressions per minute. CPR should continue unless the person is actively shocked or until emergency medical personnel relieve the person performing compressions.
3. Prepare the chest for defibrillator pads
Defibrillator pads will need to be placed on the skin of the chest. To do this, clothing may need to be removed. In the event the victim has an excessive amount of body hair, the areas where the defibrillator pads will be placed will need to be quickly shaved. Most AED defibrillator kits include a razor and gloves for this process to happen quickly and safely.
4. Place the defibrillator pads on the chest
The “heart” or “plus” pad will be placed lateral to the left nipple. The other pad will be placed just above the right nipple near the clavicle. This pad placement will create an arc of electricity that will travel from pad to pad, passing through the heart. All AEDs will have instructions on pad placement. They are also fitted with safety features that will not allow the AED to work until the pads are correctly placed on the victim’s chest.
5. Turn on the AED
Features vary across brands and types of AEDs. Some have CPR monitoring features that help you perform effective chest compressions. Others are semi-automated and require the user to start the AED and then press a “Shock” button once the AED instructs you to do so. Some feature video instructions. Others are fully automated and only need to be turned on to start the shocking and monitoring protocol. In every case, the AED must be turned on to function. At this point, it is important to follow the particular AED’s operating instructions that are generally both printed and appear in picture form on the inside of the AED case.
AED’s are designed to be easy to use for even the most inexperienced bystander. However, it is vital that anyone attempting to use one remain calm throughout the process to ensure its effectiveness.