Updated January 2021
Community AED’s are becoming more and more common. This is a good thing as they are ‘life saving’ devices designed for non-experts to use in the event of a Cardiac Arrest. Do you know how to maintain your local AED? Do you have a team of community volunteers to check and respond if it is used?
Many parts of Scotland are rural and ambulance response times in rural areas cant be the same as urban areas. In the event of a Cardiac Arrest, time matters. The quicker and AED reaches a non breathing casualty the better their chances of survival.
Many communities have fund raised and invested in Community AEDs or Defibrillators. As AEDs can now be bought for around £1000 they are becoming more common. Where I live in Wester Ross we have over the last 6 years gone from having one public access AED to twelve public access AEDs in the community. These are all listed in our local paper (see image right). Local papers, tourist guides and local shops are great places to display Defibrillator locations.
There is also the National Defibrillator Register for Scotland, known as ‘The Circuit’. It is imperative that you register your AED so it can be used to hopefully save someone’s life. Click here to go to The Circuit Website
Now we have all these life saving machines in the community there are two issues to address. Firstly how do you maintain your local AED and secondly how can you train people to use them in preparation for a medical emergency?
- Keeping it resourced – decide who in the community is going to check / inspect the AED machine regularly and to ensure it is working. We try to check our AED on a monthly basis to check it is working properly.
- Notices and labelling for your AED. Make sure your AED is labelled clearly, they should come with the green AED sign either on the box or as stickers. We have put a sign up on the main road to make sure everyone knows which lane to turn down to get hold of the AED in an emergency. Make you AED easy to find.
- It doesn’t matter what ‘brand’ or ‘make’ of AED you have, they are quite generic in how they work. Don’t be afraid of the AED machine! Encourage your community group to open it up and check what is inside. This example is a Philips which comes in a red box, but you have other common brands like Zoll (yellow) and Cardiac Science (orange). Take the parts out so you are familiar with them.
- You should see that inside the box or bag their is the AED itself and some pads with leads. There should also be some scissors, a razor and a cloth (these may be in a separate packet).
- Check battery light. This is usually a green light in the top corner of the AED or near to the Off/On switch. The light should flash intermittently to demonstrate the battery is charged. If the AED is emitting a regular ‘beep, beep’ noise then this means the battery is running low.
- Turn on AED and check it starts up OK. You can’t accidentally break the machine, so go on…….. switch it on! Once started, the machine should start talking and begin the emergency protocol. Let it run for 20 seconds and when you are happy it is working turn it off again. It automatically resets.
- Turn AED over and check batteries are still in date. This does depend on BRAND as some AEDs use off the shelf batteries. With this Philips machine we noticed the batteries were in date! You can see the box says 2019-11, that’s November 2019. (It has now been replaced!)
- Check dates on pads too. When we checked these pads the date says ‘Expiration Date 2016-2017’, so they were out of date and need changing. You need to contact the supplier or manufacturer direct to order replacement pads. Most AED machines will come supplied with Adult pads only. Remember you can use these on any one over the age of 8 years old. Child pads are available from your supplier as well.
- Record book. It is a good idea to record when you AED checks are done. We have a waterproof notebook we keep in the AED box and just mark when a check has been done and by whom. This type of system should pick any issues with the AED which could then be discussed and rectified.
- **Cold weather effects** After the sever cold weather, we noticed that our AED machine was getting cold! It started beeping which would normally mean the battery was running low. However when we took the AED in to a warmer area and checked it the battery was fine. in the recent very cold weather it is worth checking your AED more regularly.
- Keep everything clean and ensure the casing or cupboard seals are still watertight. A dirty cupboard with mould, moss or even worse, bird droppings, does not invite someone to use it or trust it.
How can you train people to use them in preparation for a medical emergency?
Having an AED on wall of a community hall is great but how do people know how to use it? Learning how to do CPR and use an AED takes about 20 minutes and save lives. We have done training sessions for our community in our front room.
To see how to use an AED in a cardiac Arrest look at our video ….