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Imperative equipment: why the public needs access to external defibrillators

Wayne Whitehurst August 4, 2021

Automated external defibrillators (AEDs) are a vital piece of machinery to have in public spaces. People of all ages and medical histories are susceptible to sudden cardiac arrest (SCA), and this makes it necessary for AEDs to be available at a moment’s notice.

Unfortunately, around 30,000 Australians every year suffer out-of-hospital cardiac arrest (OHCA), with the death rate remaining at a staggering 90%. A lack of public awareness in a situation where an AED is required can prove fatal, and this is why the public needs to be aware of this imperative equipment and why they are freely available for public use.

So, if you’ve been wondering why people should always have access to an automated external defibrillator, here is how they can be effective…

Sudden cardiac arrest can occur at any time

Many SCA victims have a history of heart disease and other high risk factors. However, many people do not, and many people have little-to-no history of health problems let alone those concerning the heart. SCA can happen to anyone, anywhere and at any time. You could be an athlete, health practitioner, executive, man, woman – the random nature of SCA is simply quite unfair.

Although it often occurs alongside a heart attack, SCA is not actually a heart attack. SCA is a life-threatening abnormal heart rhythm caused by the heart’s electrical system malfunctioning. Defibrillation is the only way to correct such an abnormal heart rhythm and this is why AEDs are necessary in public spaces.

When an OHCA occurs, such as at work, in the gym, shopping centre etc. the very best chance a victim has of surviving is through immediate defibrillation. According to the American Heart Association, CPR in conjunction with defibrillation more than doubles the victim’s survival chances. Each minute that passes without these techniques reduces the victim’s survival chances, so it is important to do it as soon as possible.  

Everyone can use an AED

Paramedics are trained in the use of defibrillators, but their response time varies, and unfortunately this can prove the difference between life and death with a case of SCA. However, everyday civilians can use an AED in the event of SCA, whether they are trained to use them or not!

How? Contemporary defibrillators can be used by anyone as they provide guidance on how to use them in the event where a first responder is not immediately present. They can guide the individual on how and when to administer a potentially life saving shock when required, as well as the necessary time to administer CPR to the victim.

Every minute is crucial when it comes to a SCA victim, especially when you consider the fact that with every minute that passes the victim’s survival chances decrease by 10%. This being said, many people see AEDs everywhere they go (gyms, grocery stores, workplaces etc.) and think they are just some random health first aid kit.

Like all necessary first aid administration, you never know when you may need to use an AED. It is always best to ensure your workplace, or any other institutions you have a degree of say over, are properly equipped with AEDs in the event of an employee, visitors, member etc. experiencing SCA.

What’s more, ensure employees are aware of the exact location of the AED in the potential event that they have to quickly grab it and use it on a SCA victim.