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How to Use an AED: Steps to Follow at the Critical Moment

How to Use an AED: Steps to Follow at the Critical Moment

How to Use an AED: Steps to Follow at the Critical Moment

When someone goes into cardiac arrest every second counts. You only have around 10 minutes to bring someone back using a defibrillator and CPR. An Automatic External Defibrillator (AED) can be used by anyone and comes with clear instructions to follow. You should also be given support by a 999 call handler when you call emergency services.

That said, knowing what to do beforehand and being prepared is invaluable. If you run a business, manage a team, or simply if you want to know what to do if the situation occurs, read on to find out the steps for how to use AED defibrillators.

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Cardiac Arrest: The Timeline

You have to act quickly to help someone in cardiac arrest as the chances of survival decrease with each passing second. Here’s a timeline of what should happen:

1. CPR must begin within the first two minutes following cardiac arrest.

2. After three minutes, lack of blood flow to the brain could lead to brain injury that will get progressively worse the longer someone is in cardiac arrest.

3. After nine minutes the person is likely to have permanent brain damage.

4. After 10 minutes the likelihood of resuscitation is very low and survival is unlikely.


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After a cardiac arrest, it’s likely a personwill be in a coma or suffer some brain damage, but the more quickly they receive medical attention the higher chance they have of recovering. AED defibrillators installed in public places drastically increase the chances of someone receiving medical attention in time for it to have a positive impact. Read on to find out exactly how to use a defibrillator.



Find out when you should use an AED and how to tell if someone is about to go into cardiac arrest in our blog post When to Use a Defibrillator.

How to Use an AED: Steps to Follow

Before using a defibrillator machine you will need to do some quick preliminary checks to make sure you don’t harm them. First, check whether the person is responsive and whether they are breathing normally or at all. If not it is likely they have gone into cardiac arrest. If they are responsive they might be experiencing a heart attack and AED use would harm them further.

Check that the person is not laying in water and move them completely out of the water if they are. You do not want any water to come into contact with the AED pads.

If you have someone else with you, ask for their help. They can call 999 and ask for emergency services to be sent to your location. The 999 call handler can also help you through the process of administering shocks. If you are alone put them on speakerphone so you have both hands free to work. They can also help you with the steps below so that you can continue to provide CPR without stopping until you need to switch to the AED.

You should always start with CPR if someone is showing signs of cardiac arrest. If CPR doesn’t work move on to use a heart defibrillator.

Here’s how to use an AED:

1. Ask someone to locate the nearest defibrillator and set it up next to the person in cardiac arrest.

2. Turn on the defibrillator, take out the pads, and following any visual or audio instructions. Instructions will always be clear and easy to find. The iPAD-SP1 AED comes with audio instructions meaning you don’t have to worry about trying to read instructions while you perform the shocks.

3. Open the person’s shirt and make sure their chest is dry. If their chest is very hairy you might need to shave a space for the pads to be placed to make enough contact with the skin. If you can’t shave the person’s chest don’t worry, just try to press down very hard.

4. Check the person’s chest for a pacemaker. This will be a lump or bump about 4 inches wide in their chest area. If you find a pacemaker don’t place a pad over it. Instead, try to place it close to the correct position.

5. Attach the AED pads to the person’s chest by removing the backing paper.

6. The AED will now analyse the person’s heart rhythm. You might be prompted to press a button to do this

7. The AED will tell you if you need to administer a shock. Make sure no one is touching the person when you do this and ensure you only press the button and don’t make contact with the person otherwise. Have everyone stand well clear.

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The first pad will go on the right-hand side of the chest (their right, your left) below the collar bone. The second pad will go on their left-hand side below the armpit

You might be prompted to press a button to administer the shock. If it is a fully automatic defibrillator you won’t need to do this but if it is a semi-automatic defibrillator you will.

8. The defibrillator might then ask you to start performing CPR again. If no shock is advised you might also be prompted to start CPR again. Continue to do this until the AED gives you further instructions or until emergency services arrive.

9. If the person shows signs of consciousness put them in the recovery position, cover them with a blanket or coat, leave the AED attached and monitor them and the defibrillator until emergency services arrive.

How to Use an AED on a Child

If the child is over eight years old or weighs more than 55lb (25kg), follow the steps above. If they are younger or lighter, how to use an AED on an infant differs slightly. The defibrillators will give you specific instructions on how to administer shocks to a child. In most cases, you will have to place one pad on the left side of the chest and the other on the back to prevent them from touching.

Some AEDs, like the iPAD-SP1, have the capability of being switched from adult mode to child mode. 

How to Use an AED on a Woman

When considering how to use an AED on a female, the procedure is exactly the same as any adult. A woman’s breasts will fall to the side when laid on their back and you should be able to access the correct area of their chest without issue.

It’s important to remember that it’s not inappropriate to expose a person’s naked chest when you need to use a defibrillator. You could be saving their life which is the most important thing at the time. Having someone else present might make you feel more comfortable exposing someone’s chest to use a defibrillator.

How to Use an AED on a Pregnant Woman

If a pregnant woman goes into cardiac arrest, it’s completely safe to use an AED and the same steps as those for an adult above should be carried out. The shocks from a defibrillator will not harm the fetus. The fetus is at risk of dying if the mother does not receive the AED.

If a pregnant woman regains consciousness she should be put in the recovery position on her left-hand side to encourage blood flow to the heart and fetus.

Install defibrillators in any establishment you own or manage. You could be giving someone the chance of survival they might not have otherwise had. We offer a range of AEDs, including the iPAD Saver - NF1200 Semi-Automatic Defibrillator and iPAD Saver - NF1200 Fully-Automatic Defibrillator which can be used by anyone, even people who know nothing at all about first aid.

Each comes with clear visual and audio instructions to follow and will hand over essential to the emergency crew when they arrive. You can also store the iPAD Saver in a carry case that provides protection, makes it easy to transport, and is highly visible from far away.

How to Use an AED Defibrillator

Watch our video below to learn more on how to use an AED defibrillator: 



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