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Hundreds of people are alive today entirely due to the prompt and appropriate use of a defibrillator. Automatic, External Defibrillators (AED) are now easily accessible at numerous locations; train and tube stations, shopping centres, dentists and GP Practices, sports grounds, leisure centres… and are available for the general public to use.

Why are they important?

Numerous studies have shown that if someone has a Cardiac Arrest in the Community with no defibrillator immediately available, there is only a 6% chance of them surviving; even if someone is performing great CPR on them.

However if a defibrillator is used within the first 3 minutes of someone stopping breathing, their chances of survival jumps from 6% to 74% and for each minute’s delay there is a 10% reduction in survival rate.

What if you get it wrong?

A defibrillator is for use on someone who is unconscious and not breathing and you are unable to shock someone with a defibrillator if they don’t need it.

The machine analyses the casualty’s heart rhythm and will only allow a shock to be given if they are in a shockable rhythm. It is not possible to override this with an AED and if a shock is not advised you should continue to give CPR until the ambulance arrives.

Ensure you know how to do to the best CPR – pushing down 5-6 cms on the centre of the chest at a rate of about 2 compressions per second.

You cannot get it wrong with a defibrillator and you cannot do any harm

The machine talks to you and tells you what to do!

How to help someone having a heart attack

heart attack low res

If you think someone might be having a Heart Attack, stay as calm as you can and encourage them to sit down. They will want to remain upright if they are short of breath and so you should support them in a comfortable position. If they have any medication for angina, help them to take it. Phone an ambulance and discretely bring the defibrillator should you have one available. Keep reassuring the casualty. If they are not feeling better and if they have been prescribed a 300mg aspirin they should chew this aspirin whilst waiting for the paramedics to arrive.

If they become unconscious and not breathing, start CPR – pushing hard and fast on the centre of the casualty’s chest – see the flow chart below.

adult resus flow chart

If you have a defibrillator availabile you should open it up and it will start talking to you. Dry the casualty’s chest and place the pads onto it as illustrated on the pads. Ideally someone should be doing CPR whilst another person is putting the pads onto the casualty’s chest and concentrating on the defibrillator. Keep going and do not stop until the paramedic is there and ready to take over or the casualty begins to regain consciousness.

It is strongly advised that you attend a Practical First Aid course to understand what to do in a medical emergency. Please visit firstaidforlife.org.uk emma@firstaidforlife.org.uk or tel 0208 675 4036 for more information about our courses. First Aid for life provides this information for guidance and it is not in any way a substitute for medical advice. First Aid for Life is not responsible or liable for any diagnosis made, or actions taken based on this information.

Emma Hammett, First Aid for Life

Tel: 0208 675 4036      www. firstaidforlife.org.uk

First Aid for Life is an award winning First Aid training business that is HSE and Ofqual Approved through Qualsafe Awards. Our trainers are medical and emergency services professionals and our training is tailored to your needs

We have great defibrillators available at really good prices – visit our shop 

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