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Automated External Defibrillators: Should You Have One at Your Facility?

February is American Heart Month. This is a great opportunity to consider getting an Automated External Defibrillator (AED) at your facility. If you already have one, this is a perfect time to make sure your AED program is compliant.

AEDs are a medical device used to help those experiencing sudden cardiac arrest. They can analyze the heart’s rhythm and, if necessary, deliver an electrical shock, or defibrillation to help the heart establish a normal rhythm. According to the American Heart Association, immediate cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and early defibrillation with an AED can more than double a victim’s chance of survival!

Requirements related to AEDs vary by state, so it’s important to check-state-specific regulations. For instance, in Massachusetts, they are not specifically required in private institutions (although highly encouraged by local fire departments), but in California there are specific AED requirements for buildings constructed or renovated after January 1, 2017.

If you’re considering purchasing an AED, factors to consider include that some states, including Massachusetts, require a physician’s prescription to buy an AED. Many vendors will include the prescription as part of the purchase. Otherwise, a prescription can be obtained from a medical doctor employed by your facility, a vendor who offers this service, or an occupational health provider.

It’s also important to make sure the AED that you’ve selected has been approved by the FDA. This website​ lists FDA approved AEDs. AED placement is also an important consideration. They should be located in a central and visible high traffic location such as in a cafeteria or other common area.

AED and CPR training are both required in facilities with AEDs. In Massachusetts, standards and guidelines of the American Heart Association or the American Red Cross must be followed. It’s also best practice, and in some cases required, to develop and implement a written Medical Emergency Response Plan (MERP) describing procedures for AED use and oversight.

Once installed, the AED must be checked monthly. Always consult the AED manual and the American Heart Association has also provided a checklist example. Items to check include: unobstructed access, pad (electrode) expiration date, battery and indicator light status, and confirmation that supplies are available and in good condition.

Supplies needed will include two sets of AED pads, a CPR pocket mask with a one-way valve, non-latex gloves, absorbent gauze or hand towel, and a razor. It’s important to note that an AED may occasionally require software upgrades that the unit itself does not prompt for when tested. Notification of the upgrade may be in the form of a letter from the manufacturer to the individual who purchased the AED, and it’s always a good idea to check periodically with the manufacturer to ensure that the software version is still current.

For additional information on AED requirements, or for assistance implementing a Medical Emergency Response Plan at your facility, please email [email protected].

This blog was written by Beth Graham, Associate Director of Quality, Research, & Training at Safety Partners.

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