Know the facts about the life-saving AED machine before opting to leave it out of your workplace prepardness plan.

AED Machine: Myths and Essential Facts About This Life-Saving Device

Health & Safety Safety

Have myths about the AED machine swayed you against including one in your workplace preparedness plan? Here are the facts about this life-saving device.

An AED machine, or automated external defibrillator, is an essential component in first aid and safety. Somehow, though, there remains a knowledge gap that includes many misconceptions.

Most of us have seen these units at airports, hospitals, schools, government buildings, nursing homes, first aid stations and even in our workplaces — even if we may not recognize them. But what are they, what do they do and what are the misconceptions and facts surrounding their use?

AED Machine FAQ

First things first, AEDs are portable devices “that check the heart rhythm and can send an electric shock to the heart to try to restore a normal rhythm,” according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. They’re used every day in the U.S. to treat sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) caused by arrhythmia of the heart (abnormal heart rhythms).

An AED is portable and is composed of a battery pack, wired sensors and a computer that detects abnormalities and determines if and when to deliver an electrical discharge to the heart. AEDs make it possible for a non-medical practitioner to restore a normal heart rhythm during those few critical minutes after an SCA event.

Why is this important? According to the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Association, the response time from the time you call to the time emergency services reaches the victim is no less than 8 minutes. This includes discovery, time to call 911, call processing time, activation time, response time and time from vehicle to the patient. Brain death can occur within 4–6 minutes after an SCA event. When you add all that up, it makes a great case for providing AEDs in the workplace.

Misconceptions and Facts

From their difficulty of use to the physical aftermath, there are many common misconceptions surrounding AEDs and when or how to properly administer treatment. Take a look at the following myths and facts to discover the truth about these life-saving machines.

Myth: SCA does not happen often.

Fact: The American Heart Association reports that 326,200 people experienced SCA events outside of a hospital setting, with approximately ten percent of the victims surviving.

Myth: A heart attack is the same as an SCA.

Fact: A heart attack is caused by artery blockage while an SCA event is caused by an abnormal heart rhythm.

Myth: AEDs are expensive to purchase and maintain.

Fact: AED prices have dropped significantly in the last decade. Breaking it down, a typical AED — over ten years of ownership — ranges from $130–$300 per year to own. That is as little as $11 to $25 per month. That’s less than most people spend at their coffee shop in a week.

Myth: AEDs are complex and very difficult to use and can only be used by trained professionals.

Fact: Any employee can use an AED. Today’s units incorporate many automated features that make their use very easy to administer. In fact, AEDs can be used by people of all ages with no prior training, as most units have a voice guided system and pictures that walk the user through the steps. Prior training, of course, does speed up the process when an AED is required. Familiarity is a time saver and time is not a friend when a coworker experiences an SCA event.

Myth: Owning or using an AED carries significant legal risk.

Fact: The Cardiac Arrest Survival Act was part of legislation signed into law in November 2000. One of its provisions offers nationwide Good Samaritan protection for anyone who renders emergency treatment with a defibrillator in an effort to save someone’s life. This act also covers the owner or acquirer of the AED.

Myth: An AED could unintentionally shock a victim.

Fact: An AED uses sophisticated hardware and software to analyze the victim’s heart rhythm and determine if a shock is required. A shock is only delivered by the AED machine if an SCA event is detected. It’s important to back away from the victim if the AED indicates it’s about to deliver a shock.

Myth: I can only use an AED once.

Fact: Most AEDs can deliver tens, often hundreds, of shocks in their usable life. The important thing to remember is that the pads and the batteries must be maintained and replaced in accordance with manufacturer’s recommendations.

Myth: Shocking someone with an AED causes a violent, physical (flailing and bouncing) reaction from the victim.

Fact: You will notice the victim’s shoulders slightly move. The arms and legs will not react violently, as Hollywood often portrays.

So, there you have it: Take the mystery out of AEDs and they’re a whole lot more approachable. Providing AEDs for your workforce, encouraging their use and following your emergency preparedness plans can have a profound impact on someone’s life sooner rather than later.

J.A. Rodriguez Jr.
J.A. Rodriguez Jr.

J.A. Rodriguez Jr., CSP, is the CEO of Make My Day Strategies LLC and a global Fortune 100 senior manager. Rodriguez was honored to be selected by EHS Today Magazine as one of "The 50 People Who Most Influenced environmental, health and safety in 2012-2013" and "2014 - 2015."