Defibrillator in the community – how does it work?

Automated External Defibrillator (AED)

You have probably heard of a defibrillator, you might even have seen them in the community? Coded cabinets often yellow with a coded lock where access is given from the ambulance service to use the lifesaving equipment inside.

Public Access Defibrillator cabinet

Community public access defibrillator cabinet with 24/7 access

Most of all…… Do you know what a defibrillator looks like and how to use one?

During a cardiac arrest, time is critical. For every minute before a defibrillator is used its estimated a 10% reduction in survival is lost. After 10 minutes, survival chances are reduced dramatically. Every second really counts.

Did you know…… Anyone at any age can suffer a cardiac arrest at any time?

I was recently at a cardiac arrest conference in Lancashire, one of the speakers was an 18-year-old young man called Sam Mangoro. Sam suffered a cardiac arrest at school whilst warming up for a PE lesson aged just 16.

His life was saved by staff in the school resuscitating him, providing CPR and using the schools own defibrillator to shock his heart back into a normal rhythm.

Sam has now established his own charity ‘The All Heart Campaign’.

Do you have a Public Access Defibrillator near you?

If you are ever asked to go and get a public access defibrillator this is what you will find inside.

Inside a public access defibrillator cabinet

Public access defibrillator

Makes and models do vary but they all work in the same way. Take with you everything inside including the rescue pack and spare electrode pads if available.

The rescue pack should contain items including

  • tough cut scissors
  • disposable gloves
  • razor
  • pocket mask for giving rescue breaths and wipes.

Remember the electrode pads need to go directly onto bare skin. This means you need to remove all clothing from the chest.

Defibrillator pad placement

Ensure the electrode pads are placed in the correct position as shown above

You may be asked to get a defibrillator if someone is in cardiac arrest or having any other condition where the ambulance service think a defibrillator might be needed. This can include chest pains. You will be given the code and directions to find the AED box.

Defibrillators are small lifesaving devices that are used on people who suffer a cardiac arrest, this is where the heart is unable to pump blood around the body, causing someone to lose consciousness and stop breathing normally. There are many reasons why someone could suffer a cardiac arrest but if this is witnessed by someone the chance of survival could be increased by quickly using a defibrillator.

Attend a training session, it could save a life

If you have a defibrillator near you it’s always worth attending a short training session to understand how to use one.

Remember that during a cardiac arrest every second counts. A basic understanding of how to use a defibrillator will save many valuable seconds.

Please feel free to Contact us here if you have any questions about defibrillators including training sessions, supply or maintenance.

The chain of survival

The chain of survival outlined below must always be followed:


Are defibrillators safe to use?

Defibrillators will not do any harm to a person in cardiac arrest. In fact, they are very safe to use and will only shock someone if the heart is in a shockable rhythm. All defibrillators will provide clear instructions during use.

More information on defibrillators is available on the Resuscitation Council (UK) website you can download a guide to AED’s in their free publications area.

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