Maintaining Automatic External Defibrillators (AEDs) is perhaps the most important step in an AED program. Staff at a Washington D.C. gym learned this the hard way when a 55-year old man named Ralph Polanec collapsed.
The staff members at the gym rushed to grab their AED but could not get the device to turn on and deliver the life-saving shock Ralph’s heart needed.
Despite the best efforts of EMS personnel and friends at the scene, Ralph’s heart never restarted. Later it was found out that the batteries had been removed from the device when they lost their charge, they had never been replaced, effectively rendering the AED useless.
“He shouldn’t have died. I was very upset that the equipment wasn’t working, because if it had been working, it might have saved him, it’s no good if it doesn’t work,” said 77-year-old Ruth Polanec, Ralph’s stepmother.
Ruth is not alone in her reaction. As it turns out, battery problems are one of the leading causes of potentially deadly AED failures.
A recent study shows some 1,150 deaths were tied to AED failures over a 15-year period, and nearly one in four of those failures were caused by problems with batteries. Dr. Deluca, the study’s lead author, determined that 23.2 percent of the AED failures were due to battery/power failures, while 23.7 percent were due to problems with the pads or connectors.
Even though the report describes a variety of maintenance related problems, DeLuca is quick to note that AED failures appear to be very rare. “I don’t want to send the message that these devices are unsafe or that they don’t work,” DeLuca said. “Most of the time they do work and they save lives.”
AED batteries generally last up to five years. But it is important to implement an AED program that regularly checks for error messages and could alert users about low batteries.
AED maintenance is key to having a successful AED program, step up and keep your AED program running smoothly. Visit