In the UK, there are 30000+ cardiac arrests outside hospitals each year, yet only 1 in 10 survive. Their chances of survival are greatly increased by bystanders doing CPR and using an AED or defibrillator.
Due to campaigning by the British Heart Foundation and others, defibrillators are now commonly located in workplaces, schools, transport hubs, village halls, supermarkets, visitor centres and other public places and as a result levels of AED awareness and training have increased.
Sadly, many people don’t survive cardiac arrest because ambulance services and first aiders often do not know where the nearest defibrillator is, or how to access it, because it is not registered. It is crucial therefore that we know where all these defibrillators are when we need them. We always encourage participants on our courses to find out where the nearest defibrillator is closest to their home, workplace and somewhere they go regularly such as shops, school, park or leisure centre.
How do I find a defibrillator?
A new partnership between the UK ambulance services, the British Heart Foundation and Microsoft aims to solve this, by creating a national map of all defibrillators in the UK, known as ‘The Circuit‘. ‘The Circuit’ already provides locations of defibrillators to every Ambulance Service in the UK, so when a member of the public calls 999 or 112, they can be directed to the nearest defibrillator quickly.
If you have a defibrillator, we encourage you to register it on ‘The Circuit’ network to help improve cardiac arrest survival rates in your area. At present (October, 2021), the Circuit is accessible by emergency services only. In the future it is planned to create an interactive map where you can quickly search for your nearest defibrillator.
Several other online defibrillator maps exist already but are not always complete – they rely on people, business and communities registering them. The Circuit aims to become the definitive register of defibrillators. One of the most popular sites is www.heartsafe.co.uk which has an interactive map similar to the one planned for the Circuit but it still relies on people, businesses and communities registering their defibrillators with the site so it is not complete.
Where is YOUR nearest defibrillator? It is worthwhile thinking about where your nearest defibrillator is to your home, your place of work and somewhere you go regularly such as the gym, shopping centre or a restaurant.
If you know of a local defibrillator, check with the owners that it is registered with the Circuit.
How do I register a defibrillator?
- Setup your account here with the Circuit.
- Enter the location, brand, model and device serial number of the defibrillator
- Enter details of how and when the defibrillator can be accessed
- Enter details of when the pads expire – ‘The Circuit’ will send you reminders to renew these.
How will I identify a defibrillator station?
The defibrillator box will be attached to a building as it requires a power supply to maintain the batteries. It should be in a prominent place and easy to find and is usually yellow, white, or green, box with a prominent green and white sign.
Some defibrillators are locked with a keypad entry system and can only be opened with a code. This is to deter vandalism and theft. You can get the code by phoning 999/112 if the defibrillator is registered. Sometimes there is another number on the box to phone to get the number. Always phone 999/112 first as you will need more than just the access code – you’ll need an ambulance as well.
Defibrillators are usually in prominent places, in a protective box with a large green and white AED sign on the outside.
Why are defibrillators so important? What do they do?
Defibrillators are an import link in the ‘chain of survival’ after someone has had a cardiac arrest. CPR alone is extremely unlikely to result in the survival of a casualty who has suffered cardiac arrest in a public place. The casualty needs both CPR and a shock from an AED, and if used within 3-5 minutes of a cardiac arrest, an AED can increase the casualty’s chances of survival by up to 50%.
If you make a 999 call and an AED is available nearby you can send a bystander to collect it whilst you carry out CPR. To learn how to do CPR and use an AED, watch our video. Cardio pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) will help to maintain the casualty’s life before an AED arrives on scene. CPR will maintain the oxygen circulation around the body within the bloodstream. The AED may be able to ‘restart’ the heart in some cases (Technically it doesn’t ‘restart’ the heart, but this is a helpful description for lay people).
Along with the provision of more defibrillators around the country, the aim should also be to get lots of people in the community or workplace trained to be competent and confident in using the AED and administering first aid when it is needed. Regular training should be part of the provision of an AED in a community or workplace. Find out who maintains your local AED and see if you can get some training through them or direct them to our website to book a course.
What’s inside a Defibrillator / AED box?
Inside the box there will be numerous items. You need them all to attend to a casualty. Sometimes the defibrillator battery and pads are in one pack and the ‘consumables’ are in another pack. Make sure you take both packs.
All defibrillator stations should have the following items:
a. The defibrillator battery;
b. Sticky backed pads with leads connected to them. They will be either adult or child pads. You can tell by the picture on the pad. The picture also shows you where to put the pads on the casualty.
c. An instruction card on how to use the defibrillator. However, when you turn the machine on, it talks to you and tells you what to do step by step.
d. Some consumables including scissors to cut open clothing as the pads need to go directly onto skin;
e. A towel to dry the area where you will put the pads if required;
f. A razor to shave the area where you will put the pads if required;
g. Gloves for you to use to protect yourself and the casualty from any cross contamination;
h. Sometimes there will be a face shield for doing CPR rescue breaths;
i. A record sheet showing maintenance and local contacts if appropriate.
Is training available for using a defibrillator?
Training is available through us at the First Aid Training Co-operative. You can find out more about our courses here.
It is worth noting that the use of an AED / defibrillator forms an integral part of all CPR sessions for first aid, as recommended by the European Resuscitation Council Guidelines. These are the guidelines that all first aid practice is led by. Therefore training and practice in the use of a defibrillator should be part of any first aid course that includes CPR. The advantage in doing a full first aid course is that you learn more than just how to use the defibrillator but a complete first aid course including incident response, CPR, heart attacks, choking, bleeding, the legalities and all about first aid kits that you should have in your community or workplace. The certificate for a first aid course lasts for 3 years. A short AED & CPR only course has a certificate that only lasts one year.
Can I get a mobile defibrillator?
Yes, these are being developed and some are available now. The quality varies and the battery life is the crucial element here as mobile defibrillators may only give a few shocks before the battery runs out especially in colder climates. They are good for emergencies in remote locations away from roads and local AED stations. The batteries are also very heavy although battery technology is being improved very rapidly and we expect this to lead to improvements in mobile defibrillators.
There are also trials being carried out by Mountain Rescue Services in delivering a defibrillator via a drone. This can then be used on a mountain or other remote setting ahead of the Mountain Rescue team arriving to assist. Drones are also being used to deliver them into dangerous locations where it would be too risky to send in a person to assist.
Frequently asked questions:
Yes, there are lots of funds available for communities and businesses to help them buy and install a publicly accessible defibrillator.
Yes, these are being developed and some are available now. They are good for emergencies in remote locations away from roads and local AED stations. The batteries are also very heavy although battery technology is being improved very rapidly and we expect this to lead to improvements in mobile defibrillators.
Training in the use of an AED / defibrillator forms an integral part of all CPR sessions for first aid, as recommended by the European Resuscitation Council Guidelines. Therefore it should be included as part of any first aid course as well as in stand-alone CPR&AED training courses.