AED

How to use an AED

Always call Triple Zero (000) for emergency assistance in Australia. This information is not a substitute for proper AED training by an accredited organisation.

What is an AED?

An AED or automated external defibrillator (or “defib” for short), is a portable, electronic device that’s used in a medical emergency to help someone who is suffering a sudden cardiac arrest. An AED detects and analyses a person’s heart activity and, if needed, delivers an electric shock (also called a defibrillation), through the chest to the heart. An AED can restore normal rhythm to the heart.

How to use an AED

Anyone can use an AED and knowing how to use one could save a life. In this simple training video, an accredited instructor from Response for Life explains how to use a defibrillator. Medical training is not required to use an AED.

5 things to know about using an AED

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An AED is easy to use.

An AED helps guide you with CPR

An AED gives step-by-step instructions of what to do and where to place pads.

An AED can be used by anyone

An AED gives someone suffering a sudden cardiac arrest the best chance of survival!

Steps for using an AED

In an emergency, start by following the DRS ABCD action plan. If defibrillation is required (as the person is unresponsive or not breathing normally), follow these simple steps:

  1. As soon as an AED is available, turn it on and follow the instructions;
  2. Remove all clothing from patient’s chest;
  3. Correctly place defib pads on bare chest;
  4. AED analyses heart rhythm;
  5. Listen to AED instructions;
  6. If the AED prompts to give shock, stay clear of the patient.
  7. After the AED delivers the shock, continue CPR with compressions until the person responds, or normal breathing returns, or the paramedics take over
  8. Continue to listen to any instructions from the AED. Sometimes it may be necessary to shock the patient more than once.

It’s vital to remember that an AED does not replace CPR , it is used in addition to CPR. Don’t delay CPR while waiting for someone to get an AED.

When do I need to use an AED?

AEDs are used to revive someone from a sudden cardiac arrest. This is when the heart suddenly stops beating properly. While not the only cause of cardiac arrest, a common is a disruption in the heart’s electrical rhythm that causes a rapid and irregular heartbeat (ventricular fibrillation ) or a dangerously fast heartbeat (ventricular tachycardia ). When this occurs, the heart can’t pump blood effectively. An AED or defibrillator is required to restart the heart or shock it back into its normal rhythm.

Remember, a defibrillator must only be used on a person who is unresponsive and not breathing normally.

How does a defibrillator work?

An AED is easy to use with simple audio and visual commands. A built-in computer checks a person’s heart rhythm through adhesive electrodes placed on the chest. The battery-powered machine then detects whether defibrillation is required. If it is, a recorded voice prompt will instruct you to stand clear of the patient and press the shock button. The device administers an electric shock to the heart which can help restore normal heart rhythm and function.

Why are AEDs important?

When used within the first 3-5minutes of a cardiac arrest, an AED increases survival rates by up to 70%.

Because AEDs are portable and simple to use, non-medical people are able to provide rapid assistance to the patient, while waiting for paramedics to arrive. This can greatly improve the chance of survival.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about AEDs

Got a question about using an AED? Below is a list of Frequently Asked Questions that has been compiled with the expert guidance from the accredited Response for Life team.

Can anyone use an AED, even if they aren’t trained in CPR?

Yes. An AED provides voice prompts with clear instructions to help guide the user. It is designed to be user-friendly so that anyone is able to use it even without CPR training.

Where can I find an AED?

AED Sign Australia

Defibrillators can be typically found in public places, such as sporting fields, airports, schools, hotels, swimming pools, workplaces, shopping centres, gyms, train stations, public libraries and, of course, hospitals. You can purchase one for your organisation from our partners at Response for Life.

In Australia, public places that have AEDs will display a sign similar to this.

When is an AED used during CPR?

As soon as an AED becomes available, it should immediately be put to use. The earlier an AED is used, the greater the chance of the patient’s survival.

Do I need to do CPR if I have a defib?

Yes. CPR and an AED should be used together. An AED is not a substitute for CPR.

How will I know when to use a defib?

If someone is unresponsive and not breathing or breathing is not normal, start CPR immediately and use an AED as soon as available.

How do I know when to shock someone?

An AED will advise when a shock needs to be administered. The AED is making this decision, not the responder.

Do I need to do CPR if I have a defibrillator?

CPR and AED should be used together. An AED is not a substitute for CPR.

Can I hurt someone with an AED, or shock a person that isn’t in cardiac arrest?

No. An AED is a medical device that analyses the heart for a shockable rhythm. The AED decides whether to administer a shock or not. You cannot accidentally deliver a defib shock. If an AED is used on a person who is in a normal heart rhythm, whether they are responsive and breathing normally or not, it will not administer a shock.

Can I get hurt using a defib?

Using an AED is safe for the responder as it offers very clear instructions. The AED will advise when a shock is being delivered and will instruct the user to stay clear from the patient. The responder should hold their hands up to also show other bystanders not to touch the patient while the AED is analysing.

How does an AED help CPR?

An AED offers instructions to help guide the rescuer with CPR. The AED uses a metronome to set the beat and maintain the 100-120 compressions per minute.

Some AEDs have a screen that gives visual directions on CPR. Some AEDs give feedback on the quality of the compression depth and rate.

Should an AED be used for anyone who needs CPR?

Yes. If a person suffers a sudden cardiac arrest, administer CPR and use an AED as soon as available.

How many shocks will the AED give during rescue?

That depends on the patient, their rhythm and how they respond, so it is uncertain how many shocks will be administered during rescue. What we do know is an AED will analyse and look for a shockable heart rhythm and advise if a shock will be delivered or not. The AED will advise the responder to stop CPR every two minutes, in order to analyse and potentially shock, until a normal heart rhythm is restored.

Do I remove the defib pads if the victim is revived?

No. Wait for the paramedics to arrive and take over. It is not advisable to remove defib pads in case the victim goes back into cardiac arrest, meaning they are again not responsive and not breathing. The AED will keep analysing their heart rhythm and provide instruction to responders.

What if the victim has a pacemaker or internal defib?

If the pacemaker or internal defibrillator was not able to restore the victim's normal heart rhythm, then resume rescue as usual, do not delay CPR and AED use. AED pad placement should be away from the (suspected) internal device. These internal devices are most commonly located on the upper left-hand side of the person’s chest (near the heart). AED pads placement is on the upper right-hand side of the person’s chest and lower left hand side of the person’s chest, (away from the heart).

What is in the AED Prep kit?

An AED prep kit contains items such as; scissors, surgical razor, gloves, CPR face shield, and paper towel wipe, that may be required during AED use.

Do I have to remove the bra when using an AED?

Yes, AED pads need to be applied to the patient's bare chest. A bra should be totally removed/cut away in case the bra has a metal strip which could interfere with the correct use of the AED.

Can I attach the defib pads if the victim has chest hair?

To ensure that the defib pads will stick, the chest should be dry and free of excessive hair. The AED prep kit contains items that will help with cleaning the area, such as a razor and wipes.

Can I use a defib on a child?

Yes. Most defibs have child pads to be used on children below the age of 8 or someone weighing below 25kg. Some defibs have a “Child Mode” button.

What if I use the AED and it doesn’t shock the victim?

If no shock is advised, it may prompt you to continue with the CPR so that it can analyse the heart rhythm again after two minutes.

Can I be held liable for using an AED if it doesn’t work?

There are Good Samaritan laws to protect responders from liability.

Can anyone own an AED?

Yes. An AED is a life saving device that anyone can own. You can purchase them from our partners Response for Life

What may an AED do or say?

Once turned on, an AED will guide the rescuer with clear instructions. Some AEDs have a screen that gives visual directions. Instructions can include;

  • “Stay calm.”
  • “Check Responsiveness”
  • “Call for help. Call emergency services now”
  • “Cut or tear clothing to expose the patient’s bare chest.”
  • “Open pad packet.”
  • “Attach pads to patient’s bare chest.”
  • “Stand clear. Analysing heart rhythm.”
  • “Stand clear. Shock advised.”
  • “Stand clear. Shock will be delivered in (countdown)”
  • “Press flashing shock button.
  • “Start CPR. Continue CPR.”
  • “Push harder. Good compressions.”
  • “Push hard at least 5 centimetres. Lean over the patient.”
  • “Push in time with the metronome.”
Acknowledgement of Country

The Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute acknowledges the traditional custodians of the land, the Gadigal of the Eora nation, on which we meet, work, and discover.
Our Western Australian laboratories pay their respect to the Whadjuk Noongar who remain as the spiritual and cultural custodians of their land.

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