Automated External Defibrillators

While the unit can be found on every commercial airline flight in the United States and at most major sporting events, and its ability to save lives is without challenge, an automated external defibrillator (AED) still cannot be found at all parks and recreation centers.

Although a well-trained staff and thoroughly stocked first-aid kit improve your department’s ability to save lives, AED technology completes a high-quality first-aid program. Before adding an AED, several key aspects must be considered.

What Is An AED?

An AED is a portable, computerized device that is used to restore a normal heart rhythm to people in cardiac arrest. This device evaluates the heart rhythm of an individual, and then indicates to the rescuer whether or not a shock is required. An AED employs a variety of methods–ranging from voice prompts, text, lights and sounds–to instruct the rescuer how to operate the device and, if required, to administer a shock to the victim. It is this shock–defibrillation–that may help the victim’s heart reestablish a constant rhythm.

Many analysts of the defibrillator industry suggest there are currently only 1.25 to 1.5 million AEDs available to the public for use, and that the market will bear 30 million; it is obvious we are at the mere conception of AEDs in the public sector. Legislation is now being passed in many states to mandate that certain public spaces have these life-saving devices on hand. For example, New York state buildings and institutions are required to have at least one AED on site. Illinois has a similar law requiring school gymnasiums and indoor park-district facilities to have an AED on the premises.

The main reason AEDs are put into use is not from an institution or governing body, but from the general public. According to Hank Constantine, Marketing Director of Public Access for ZOLL Medical Corporation, “Legal mandates are really more of a catalyst than an agent of change. When someone is saved with an AED and the word gets around, it becomes a real wake-up call for people; likewise, on the other side of the coin, when someone collapses and dies, people start to think ‘Wow, if we had an AED, we might have been able to save this person.’” Various sources indicate that survival rates for rescue attempts using both CPR and an AED device range from 36 percent to above 50 percent. Without the AED, the survival rate drops into single digits.

Where Do You Need An AED?

The short answer is any place where there is a high probability for Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA). These include places commonly operated by parks and recreation departments, such as golf courses, gyms, sporting events and complexes, as well as community/senior centers. Having a large number of persons over 50 years old at your facility and an EMS response time of more than five minutes also increase the probability of having an SCA victim.

Placement at your facility or park will depend on several factors:

1. It is a good idea to review any state legislation regarding AED use. While all 50 states have enacted some type of Good Samaritan immunity, legislation to protect rescuers using this technology and state requirements for having an early-defibrillation program vary.

2. Weather, temperature, accessibility and room for signage/alarms all affect placement. Check with the manufacturer for suggestions.

3. Check with your risk-and-safety department. Many organizations have policies in place as to who has access to this equipment.

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