Automatic External Defibrillators - If You Look Closely, You'll Find They're All Around You
Recently, I gave a talk to a bunch of middle school kids about CPR and using automatic external defibrillators (AEDs) in an emergency. Throughout most of my talk the kids were politely quiet and then about halfway through one brave girl raised her hand and asked nervously, "But where are the AEDs?" I was momentarily taken aback because I had toured the school earlier that morning and seen AED boxes at most of the major hallway junctions. So I asked another question, "How many of you know what an AED box looks like?" Two students from the entire assembly raised their hands. That got me to thinking about how many people take the time to notice where these lifesaving devices are located. So I've come up with a handy guide to help figure out where these wonderful instruments usually are found.
What Do They Look Like?
AED boxes can be white, red, or even yellow, they usually have a heart with a little lightning bolt on it and it usually says AED on front and sometimes the sides of the box. The front of the box usually has a glass panel where you can see the actual AED inside. Never open the AED box in a non-emergency situation because they are usually wired into an alarm system that will activate when you open the door. This alarm will alert a 911 dispatcher to your location (but you should ALWAYS call 911 FIRST whether you activate an AED or not).
Where Are They Found?
Unless you're in your own home, or in a remote unpopulated area, most busy high-traffic areas have AEDs nearby, especially if you live in a city or large suburb. Many cities, like Seattle, are starting to provide AED locators online that will allow you to see where the AEDs are in your area if there are any. Check your county or city's CPR website to see if they have one of those nifty maps.
Some places are utilizing preexisting structures as markers for public AEDs. For example, in Great Britain, they've begun converting their iconic red telephone booths into AED stations. This makes finding a public use AED easy, as these bright phone booths make them very visible to people who need them in an emergency.
Chances are good that if you happen to be in a public building there will be an AED somewhere. Schools will usually have at least one if not more at hallway junctions, and high-traffic areas like locker rooms, gyms, and cafeterias. Dental and medical offices will also have an AED. Most malls, fitness centers, sports venues, and major transportation terminals like train stations and airports will have AEDS nearby as well. These are often located near water fountains or restroom areas.
Why Is This Important?
Knowing where AEDs are located is extremely important during a sudden cardiac arrest. CPR is extremely helpful, but when coupled with an AED, survival rates soar. An AED delivers the right amount of electrical current necessary to restart a heart experiencing cardiac arrest. In most cases, this can assist the heart in beginning to pump again which can help minimize damage from lack of oxygen and blood flow common to patients who experience this serious cardiac emergency.