Moving Toward an AED Utopia

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Part II in a series. View part I

Earlier this week, we posted the first blog in a 2-part series as a follow up to the recent episode on CBC Marketplace in which the question was posed as to whether publicly accessible defibrillators are really that accessible.

In our first blog, we looked at the challenges associated with publicly accessible defibrillators.  In this blog, we will consider some of the solutions which are available to overcome the challenges profiled in our first story and how you can help.

AED Density

As mentioned in our earlier blog, AED density is our first challenge. Ideally, we would like to see a 75 percent survival rate for out-of-hospital cardiac arrests. To achieve this, the first person/s on the scene would have to travel no more than 450 feet to reach an AED (about 90 seconds each way using a brisk walking pace of 300 feet per minute). This is an ambitious goal with a very simple solution – AEDs need to be everywhere; in our restaurants, cars, places of work and any other highly trafficked public location.

Fortunately, a couple of initiatives are underway to place AEDs into these high traffic locations:

  • In British Columbia, the Public Access to Defibrillation (PAD) Program, funded by the Heart and Stroke Foundation of BC & Yukon and the Ministry of Health, will see 650 AEDs and associated training delivered to communities throughout BC. The expected impact, as articulated by Health Minister Margaret MacDiarmid, will be to “save hundreds of lives”. Learn more about the BC PAD Program.
  • The Government of Canada recently announced the National AED Program – Federal AED Placement Initiative, which will see a targeted 3,000 AEDs distributed to recreational facilities, mostly arenas, across the country. The Initiative will also see 30,000 people trained in the use of AEDs. Learn more about the National PAD Program.

AED Accessibility

The second challenge we mentioned in our earlier blog is accessibility. AEDs are often placed with little regard to the possibility of their eventual use. The solution for companies and for establishments such as hotels, restaurants, recreational facilities and the like is to implement an AED program, with oversight provided by a medical director, before an AED is installed.

looking for an AED

In addition to determining, as part of the program, where an AED should be placed and what signage should appear, an AED program will also help with:

  • choosing an appropriate AED and accessories
  • setting up a servicing schedule for the AED
  • planning initial and ongoing training in the use of the AED
  • integrating the AED into your medical emergency response plan
  • liaising with local EMS providers

AED programs are designed to maximize the value of your AED and meet all the recommendations from the Heart and Stroke Foundation, WorkSafeBC, and Health Canada.

AED Awareness

Of all the components that lead to a successful AED program deployment, and hopefully, to lives being saved when the need arises, awareness is the critical issue. By talking about sudden cardiac arrest and how it can be treated with the use of an AED, we are all doing our part with raising awareness of this critical issue in the community.

In contrast to the tragic SCA incident we mentioned in our first blog, take a look at the following video profiling an NHL player who suffered SCA on the ice, and who was saved thanks to an easily accessible AED and the fast actions of his teammates and an onlooker:

As you can see, SCA can happen to anyone, anywhere, at any time. You never know when your CPR skills and an AED will be needed.  Take a look around at the public places you often visit and see whether you can spot the AEDs.  You might need to know one day exactly where they’re located.

Iridia is working to raise awareness of locations of AEDs through its AEDs Everywhere campaign – a crowdsourcing campaign to map the location of AEDs all around the world. The AEDs Everywhere map allows anyone to upload the location of an AED.

Learn more about the program and how to participate.

Since 1998, Iridia has overseen the training and certification of over 30,000 individuals in the use of AEDs. We currently provide AED medical direction to over 300 clients including 140+ fire rescue services.

Part II in a series. View part I

The Shocking Truth About AED Use

Part I in a series. View part II

CBC Marketplace recently aired an episode on automated external defibrillators (AEDs) – combining facts regarding their potential life-saving benefits with some disturbing findings regarding their accessibility to the public. As Iridia’s business was built on the need which our Founder, Dr. Allan Holmes, had identified to make AEDs more widely accessible, this issue is near to our hearts.  However, to fully understand the reasons why having AEDs readily available is so important, it is necessary to understand some of the facts regarding sudden cardiac arrest (SCA).

SCA Facts

Up to 40,000 cardiac arrests occur each year in Canada alone. Without rapid treatment, particularly a shock delivered by an AED, most of these cardiac arrests will result in death. On average, every 1 minute delay in defibrillation will reduce survival rates by 7% to 10%.  Simple math suggests that after a 10 minute delay in defibrillation, the likelihood of survival is slim to none.  Further, if you are revived in the 7-10 minute range, the likelihood of notable brain damage and significant lifelong health ramifications thereafter is very high. 

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For this, and other reasons, the Heart and Stroke Foundation recommends an AED response time of three minutes or less. Fortunately, the work being done by the Heart and Stroke Foundation, both at a provincial and a national level, as well as by other organisations, is raising awareness of sudden cardiac arrest and the importance of defibrillation, with the result being that we are seeing a significant increase in the number of AEDs which are being placed in the community.  However, a number of challenges still exist.

Too Few AEDs

Applying an AED to someone in sudden cardiac arrest within the three minute response time guideline recommended by the Heart and Stroke Foundation would require that it takes no longer than 90 seconds to get to an AED, and 90 seconds to return to the SCA victim. Assuming a brisk walking pace of 300 feet per minute (not everyone responding may be able to run), means the responder would ideally have to travel no more than 450 feet to reach an AED. Current deployment for these life-saving devices is nowhere near this level of saturation. Locating an AED can often be compared to searching for a needle in a haystack.

Too Inaccessible

Beyond having an appropriate number of AEDs, there is the issue of where they should be placed.  Best practice recommends having AEDs highly visible and publically accessible; that means they can be easily reachable and the cabinets in which they are stored are unlocked.  Many AEDs installed in public locations are either hidden away and/or are under lock and key, accessible only to a limited few who may not be present during a cardiac emergency.

Too Little AED Awareness

Despite, in some instances, the above two issues having been addressed, a successful outcome after an SCA event is not guaranteed. Many individuals are still unaware of AEDs and their lifesaving benefits and would not know or think to use one in an emergency. Sadly, there was a tragic case in Calgary where a young athlete collapsed from SCA, the AED was retrieved, but nobody used it on the victim and he died. As can be seen, there are a number of issues which still need to be addressed in the quest for making AEDs more publicly accessible and raising awareness of their lifesaving benefits. 

Later this week, we will consider some of the solutions which are available to overcome the challenges associated with this.  Check in with us again to learn of these and, as always, we welcome your comments and contributions about this important issue.

 Part I in a series. View part II