What is an AED? Automated External Defibrillator

toronto first aid cpr aed training

In our first aid and CPR/AED certification courses offered, we teach our students how to use an Automated External Defibrillator (AED). An AED is an extremely sophisticated, yet easy-to-use, medical device that is used in the event of a cardiac arrest. Cardiac arrest occurs when the heart stops pumping blood around the body.  The AED’s basic function is to analyze the heart’s rhythm and deliver an electrical shock. Shocking the heart will reset the heart’s electrical activity and hopefully get the person’s heart beating again. We call this normal sinus rhythm.

Knowing how to use the AED ahead of time and having it readily available are extremely important factors in a successful rescue.

How do I know the person is in cardiac arrest?

A person in cardiac arrest shows NO signs of coughing, breathing or movement. In some cases, the color around the lips and eyes will start turning blue in color.  We call this cynisosis. Together these signs indicate that the heart has stopped beating and the person is clinically dead. Currently, the only way to restore a regular heart rhythm during cardiac arrest is to use an AED, but first we must start CPR immediately in order to circulate oxygenated blood while someone is getting the AED and bringing it back to the scene. Starting earliest CPR and providing earliest defibrillation will dramatically increase the person’s chance of survival.   

If you come across someone in cardiac arrest, call 911 and summon someone to retrieve the closest AED.  Once the AED is on scene, follow these steps:

1. Turn on the AED

Press the power button. From here, the AED will walk you through the rescue. Listen carefully to what is being said.

2.  Bare and Dry Chest / Apply the AED pads directly on the bare skin.

In the small kit that comes with AED, use the scissors to cut straight up the middle of the garments covering their chest. Next, use the razor (if necessary) to shave any hair away from the locations where the pads will be placed. Lastly, dry any moisture from the chest using the towel/cloth.

The pads will then be placed diagonally across the chest. Simply follow the diagram on the pads as to where they should be placed. For an adult, one pad will be applied on the top right side of the chest and the other on the bottom left side of the lower rib cage underneath the breast or chest muscle. For a child or baby, if the two pads are closer than 1 inch apart, place one pad in the centre of their chest and the other in the centre of their back.

3 . Analyze    –>   Shock/No Shock    –>   CPR   –>    Repeat

Although there are a number of different AEDs on the market, they will all follow the same general steps.  First the AED will analyze the hearts rhythm to determine if a shock can be delivered. Nobody should be touching the person during “analyze” as it is possible the AED picks up movement and vibrations, prompting a “No shock”.

If the AED says “Shock Advised” the AED will start charging and tell you,  “STAND CLEAR” Once the unit is fully charged, you will hear an alarm sound and see the flashing “shock” button.  Just before you push the “shock” button, say out loud, “ I’M CLEAR, YOU’RE CLEAR, EVERYBODY IS CLEAR”. Once the shock has been delivered, the AED will prompt you to begin CPR if there are still no signs of life.  Continue CPR immediately and continue until it tells you to stop.

4. Continue CPR following the AED’s prompts.

The AED will prompt you through your 5 CPR cycles or 2 minutes of CPR before it will begin the “analyze” mode. Most  AEDs will beep at the rate at which you should be delivering chest compressions. Listen to these prompts and continue doing what the AED is saying. Push hard and fast in the middle of the person’s  chest. Do 30 compressions and 2 rescue breaths ongoing.

After 2 minutes of CPR has elapsed, the AED will go back through the steps of analysis, shock or no shock and then prompt you to perform CPR. Continue following these prompts until either the person starts to breath, move or cough or EMS arrive and take over.

Whether you’re looking to brush up on your life-saving skills with our first aid and CPR/AED recertification courses, or taking our course as a prerequisite for a school program, job or any other accreditation, our first aid courses will be sure to teach you everything you need to know.

By Nick Rondinelli
CEO – Heart to Heart First Aid CPR Services Inc
Author of “Ready, Set, Rescue’ copyright 2019

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