Automated External Defibrillators (AED) are becoming more common in areas where groups of people gather. From airports to sporting events, stores to schools, AEDs have been shown to increase the likelihood of survival from particular types of sudden cardiac arrest by as much as 40 percent. With a variety of features, styles, types, and packaging, AED’s are designed to be easy to use. Fully automatic models only need to be turned on to start a lifesaving protocol. Semi-automated models require the user to press both the “start” and “shock” buttons. Some AEDs have audio instructions for use while others have audio and video instructions for everything from pad placement to whether a victim should be given an electrical shock.
In spite of the variants possible, there is one thing that you should always do before using an AED…
Check Your Surroundings
In high-stress situations, people often describe how the background fades away, leaving only them and the person they are trying to save. However, before you let adrenaline overtake you before you send someone to retrieve the AED and even before you begin CPR, you must first take stock of your surroundings. This process does not need to take a lot of time, but there are some key issues to be aware of before you begin any lifesaving measures.
1. Are you or the victim in immediate danger?
Take stock of the likelihood of placing yourself, the victim and other bystanders at risk before beginning an AED protocol. Once you start using an AED, it will be challenging and dangerous to move the person. Any movement to safety should take place before attempting to save their life.
2. Is the victim on a metal surface?
AED’s operate by administering electrical shocks to a person’s heart. Since electricity is always trying to find a ground, it will travel through the person’s body and into the ground below. If the person is laying on a metal object, such as a construction plate, duct cover or table, it is likely the electricity will not only travel through the person but affect those who are standing on or around the metal object as well. This is why doctors and nurses yell “clear” before using a defibrillator. Anyone who is touching the person or touching the bed the person is laying on will feel the effects of the electrical current.
3. Is there water present?
Water, like metal, will affect the way electricity will travel through the body. Ideally, an AED will only be used on a person whose skin is dry, in an environment where there is no standing water present, inside and away from the elements. However, do not delay defibrillation to dry a person’s body or remove them from the elements. AEDs have protocols to ensure user safety in the event of rain but make sure the AED itself or the defibrillation pads stay as dry as possible.
Taking a few seconds to assess your surroundings will improve your safety as well as that of the victim of cardiac arrest and any other bystanders nearby.