AED – external defibrillators

How does the AED work and when to use it – a few important facts that you should know when travelling.


Where to look for AED?

At airports, railway stations, shopping centers, theaters, museums, sports facilities, petrol stations, office buildings, hotels, tourist information offices.

Who to ask?

Security guards, receptionists and takers of the objects.

When to use it?

AED should be used whenever the victim/patient is not breathing. An Automatic defibrillator never causes injury and operating it can be really simple. The procedure is based on several steps all guided by the defibrillator. A person is just needed to help administer the first aid.


The first step in using AED is to turn on the device. The voice commands immediately begin.

The first command to appear is to calls emergency services (in Europe number 112) and expose the victim’s chest.

The second command is to stick adhesive electrodes on the dry chest of the patient. Electrodes are in the form of stickers with clear diagram indicating exactly where they should be placed. One of the electrodes should be placed in the right upper chest, just below the collarbone, and the other on the left, on the side of the chest. If the action is performed by two people, one of them should stick electrodes, while the other is constantly performing chest compression on the casualty. Reducing interruptions in compressions significantly increases the effectiveness of first aid!

After sticking electrodes AED automatically goes to the heart rhythm analysis. The voice message commands that during analysis time everyone should move away and do not touch the victim’s chest. Through the analysis AED assesses whether there is ventricular fibrillation, and thus whether a shock is recommended. If so, the unit will charge and advise the rescuer to press the button “shock”. The person assisting you should make sure that no one is touching the victim, although contemporary publications clearly indicate that the risk of any complications to a rescuer when using the AED is extremely small.

After the shock is performed AED commands to go back to chest compressions, it should be continued for the next two minutes. After these two minutes, AED will command you once again to move away from the victim, and it will conduct another analysis.
AED working scheme is thus arranged in four simple steps: activate the device, stick electrodes, step back for the time of analysis and press “shock” button if the AED commands it. These simple four steps are adding up 75% to the chance of survival.

All automatic and semi-automatic defibrillators operate likewise and give almost identical voice commands. Minor differences may appear in a way the device is being turned on (some AED is activated by pressing ON / OFF button, some by opening the device’s flap) and the electrodes themselves – some AED have electrodes permanently connected and, in some models, AED commands to plug in electrodes into socket after sticking them to casualty. However, this does not affect simplicity and fast pace of the procedure. More significant differences regard the technical specifications of devices – their resistance to fall, dust, humidity, and the validity of batteries and accessories (e.g. electrodes to defibrillate children).


At each corner

The idea of universal access to defibrillators(PAD – Public Access Defibrillation) consists of two major points, one is the physical presence of the devices in as many public places as possible (companies, schools, institutions, etc.) The second points regards active and widespread training of AED. Training exercises using defibrillators and mannequins to learn CPR should be conducted regularly at all businesses and workplaces.

At the ILCOR (International Liaison Committee on Resuscitation – International Liaison Committee on Resuscitation) conference held in Dallas in 2010 an important question on the recommended regularity of such exercises has been raised. As the research has shown – the ability to effectively assist in emergency situations diminishes in a very short period of time (3-6 months), so it is advisable to conduct short reminder trainings of knowledge and skills more often than previously suggested.

Unambiguous statistics show AEDs as the best known and accessible chance to reanimate casualties. This should lead to two simple conclusions – it is worth ensuring that AEDs are available in every company and it is worth to organizing training for every employee. Focusing on these two goals can dramatically improve chances of actually surviving a cardiac arrest at the workplace.