According to the American Heart Association, more than 350,000 cardiac arrests occur outside of the hospital each year. In these situations, if performed immediately, CPR can double or triple the chance of survival. The combination of CPR performed immediately including the use of defibrillation exponentially increases a victim’s survival rates.
Fortunately, defibrillation is available to bystanders and laypeople via automated external defibrillator (AED) units. The units are housed on the walls of many public buildings and are accessed similar to a fire extinguisher or first aid kit.
Here is information on how to recognize an AED if you witness a cardiac arrest and how to take lifesaving action.
Where Are AEDs Located?
Statistics tell us that the immediate use of an AED greatly increases the chances of surviving a cardiac arrest, reinforcing how imperative it is to locate an AED if there is one available. Using defibrillation is #3 on the American Heart Association’s Out-of-Hospital Chain of Survival:
- Recognition of cardiac arrest and activation of the emergency response system
- Early cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) with an emphasis on chest compressions
- Rapid defibrillation
- Advanced resuscitation by Emergency Medical Services and other healthcare providers
- Post-cardiac arrest care
- Recovery (including additional treatment, observation, rehabilitation, and psychological support)
The good news is that installed AEDs are marked with clear signage. The kits are typically housed in a white box displaying “AED” in big, bold, red capital letters. Cases are also marked with the universal sign for an AED unit, which is a red heart with a white “lightning bolt” in the center, symbolizing its use of electricity to “jumpstart” the heart.
AED boxes are unlocked to make them accessible to everyone. However, most are wired with an alarm that immediately signals its use to the building’s security personnel or administration to implement their safety/first aid protocols. Don’t be afraid when the alarm goes off. Keep focused, remove the AED from its case, and begin following the instructions.
Now that you know what an AED box looks like, what steps should you take if you suspect someone has had a heart attack in a public setting? If you are prepared to be the first responder, be ready to perform the following:
- Call 911 and put it on speakerphone so you can communicate directly with dispatchers without pausing in your attempts to help the victim. You can also begin CPR if necessary and delegate for someone else to contact first responders.
- Begin applying all you’ve learned about assessing for breathing/pulse.
- Implement CPR if necessary.
- Look around for an AED box or ask someone else to look for one and bring it to you.
- Use the AED per your training.
Where Are AEDs Located? There’s an App for That!
To create a universal map of AED locations, AED vendors and technical innovators work together to register the locations of AEDs around the nation. In just a few moments, you can install either of these apps, keeping you instantly connected to any registered AEDs in your vicinity.
Currently, there are 117,160 AEDs listed in the PulsePoint AED database, and there are roughly 108 added each day. Available for both iOS and Android, PulsePoint AED is a simple-to-use app that enables you to help build the public AED registry in your community – or anywhere.
AEDs managed using PulsePoint AED are accessible to emergency dispatchers and disclosed to emergency responders, including nearby citizens trained in CPR and off-duty professionals such as firefighters, paramedics, and nurses. Instead of asking the caller if there is an AED available, dispatch center staff can inform callers of nearby lifesaving devices.
Once you’ve downloaded the app, you can also be part of getting AEDs on the map. Launch the app and take pictures of any AED devices you notice that do not show up in their system whenever you’re out and about town. Using the app’s prompts, uploaded pictures become part of the AED mapping system.
If you witness a cardiac arrest, launch the app to see any AED units near you. It could be that while your building doesn’t have one, a neighboring building does, in which case it’s worth it to send someone out to get it and bring it back. Finally, when a cardiac arrest is called into EMS systems, PulsePoint’s secondary app, PulsePoint Community, alerts users located within the vicinity of the victim. The goal is to get support to CPR victims ASAP.
The StayingAlive app shares a similar mission to connect people who know CPR or are near a CPR-necessary event with the AEDs in their proximity. Their platform currently has 220,853 AED devices listed, with more being added every day.
Very similar to PulsePoint, it tells you where AEDs are in location to your GPS coordinates. It also allows users to add AEDs that aren’t yet listed in their system.
Another benefit of StayingAlive is that you can press a button that launches clear, simple instructions for performing CPR. Then, pass your phone to another bystander and have them read the instructions out loud if you feel you need reminders and reinforcement.
Learn How to Locate AEDs and More Lifesaving Skills
The Response Institute and CPR Consultants applaud these apps for getting this essential, lifesaving information out to the public. Even so, there is no app or set of instructions that compensate for the education and training you receive when you get your CPR and AED certification.
Taking a CPR certification course that includes AED instructions and practice provides the deep knowledge and muscle memory that will serve you and others, even during a nerve-wracking emergency.
Would you like to do your part in being the best citizen you can be? Consider getting certified so you’ll know how to use an AED when you need one and other lifesaving skills.