Over the last few years I have been delighted to see the number of Public Access Defibrillators increase. They are appearing outside many more shops, libraries and community centres as well as in schools.
Often, but not exclusively, recognised by the bright yellow cabinets they are housed in, they are a welcome sight. How many people though are aware that they are for the use of the general public and that anyone can access them?
There are over 30 000 cardiac arrests in the UK each year and over 80% of those occur at home. Prompt access to a defibrillator could increase survivability from 6% to 74%. Registering public access devices with the local ambulance service would enable the emergency call handlers to direct the rescuer to the nearest AED.
AEDs are safe machines which can be used by anyone with little or no training and allow a person in cardiac arrest to be defibrillated within the first precious few minutes before professional help arrives. They are extremely easy to use. CPR should be continued with minimal interruption of chest compressions whilst the pads of the AED are attached, and the voice prompts should be followed.
The key thing to remember about them is that you can’t make the situation worse by using one.
AED machines all have loud audible voice prompts that talk you through the process and visual prompts in terms of flashing lights. Many also have pictures on the front too. The pads also have pictures on them to show you where to place them on the casualty.
The machines are specifically programed to pick up a specific heart rhythm. They will not charge / discharge a shock unless the individual is in that rhythm (clinically in need of the shock). If someone is in cardiac arrest, they are effectively dead unless someone does CPR and deploys the machine. Out of hospital cardiac arrests have an appallingly low survival rate of approximately 6%. Dead is dead, you can’t make that worse.
As of December 2016, the HSE have stated that all first aid courses for the workplace must cover the safe use of an AED as part of the CPR component of the course. This is in line with the Resuscitation Council (UK) opinion that AED is part of the basic life support algorithm.
Whilst they are designed to be used with minimal training, a workplace first aid course or specific AED training course would provide the user with more in-depth knowledge about how they work and other considerations.
Of course trained or not, a defib's only any good it you know where it is. So as yourself the question... "where's my nearest one?"
As first aid trainers, we think it's great (and overdue) that defibs are included as a compulsory part of all workplace first aid courses. We've been teaching them that way for years, and think it's a big step forward.
But what do you think?
Would it give you confidence that you know how to use one, or would the presence of a defib put you off from trying to resuscitate someone?
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