How to use a defibrillator: A step-by-step guide by AEDdonate 

24th July 2023 - Rob Stanway

Knowing how to use this life-saving device can make a significant difference in saving lives during emergencies. Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) is a condition in which the heart suddenly and unexpectedly stops beating, leading to the cessation of blood flow to vital organs. It can occur to anyone, regardless of age or physical fitness, and every minute that passes without intervention reduces the chances of survival by 10 percent. That’s why it’s crucial to have access to defibrillators and the knowledge of how to use them effectively. Emergency medical services may not always be able to arrive on the scene within the critical window of a few minutes. Therefore, having a defibrillator nearby and individuals who are trained to use it can be the difference between life and death.


AEDdonate recognizes the importance of equipping communities in the UK with defibrillators and ensuring that individuals are prepared to take action in case of an emergency. We are dedicated to increasing awareness about SCA and promoting the widespread availability of defibrillators in public spaces, schools, workplaces, and other high-traffic areas. In this blog post, we will guide you through the step-by-step process of using a defibrillator, providing you with the information you need to confidently respond in a cardiac emergency. By understanding the purpose of defibrillators, who can use them, and how to use them correctly, you will be better prepared to assist someone experiencing SCA and potentially save a life.


Understanding Defibrillators

A defibrillator, also known as an Automated External Defibrillator (AED), is a portable device designed to deliver an electric shock to the heart in the event of a sudden cardiac arrest. It is a critical tool that can restore the heart’s normal rhythm by stopping any irregular electrical activity.

Defibrillators work by analysing the heart’s electrical signals and determining if a shock is needed. When a sudden cardiac arrest occurs, the heart’s electrical system becomes chaotic, causing the heart to quiver instead of pumping blood effectively. This quivering is called ventricular fibrillation. Defibrillators are specifically designed to detect this abnormal rhythm and deliver a controlled electric shock to the heart.

The electric shock, known as defibrillation, temporarily interrupts the chaotic electrical activity of the heart, allowing the heart’s natural pacemaker to regain control and restore a normal heartbeat. This shock gives the heart a chance to reset and resume its pumping function, increasing the likelihood of survival.

Modern defibrillators are equipped with advanced technology and user-friendly features to ensure ease of use, even for individuals with limited or no medical training. They are designed with clear voice prompts and visual instructions that guide users through each step of the resuscitation process.

It’s important to note that defibrillators are safe to use, as they are programmed to analyse the heart’s rhythm before delivering a shock. They will only administer a shock if it is necessary. Additionally, most AEDs are equipped with a feature that prevents accidental shocks, such as detecting if someone is touching the person during analysis.


Step-by-Step Guide on How to Use a Defibrillator

  1. Assess the situation: Before using a defibrillator, ensure the safety of both yourself and the victim. Check for any potential hazards or dangers nearby, such as water or metal surfaces. If none are present, immediately begin CPR. 
  2. Call emergency services: Whilst you are giving CPR, ask someone to dial 999 to request professional medical assistance. Tell them to inform them about the situation and let them know that you have access to a defibrillator.
  3. Power on the defibrillator: Locate the power button and turn on the AED. Most devices will automatically activate once turned on.
  4. Expose the victim’s chest: Remove any clothing or accessories from the victim’s chest, ensuring the skin is clean and dry. 
  5. Apply the electrode pads: Take out the electrode pads from the AED and remove the protective backing. Place one pad on the upper right side of the chest, just below the collarbone, and the other pad on the lower left side of the chest, slightly below the armpit.
  6. Analyse the heart rhythm: The defibrillator will now analyse the victim’s heart rhythm through the electrode pads. Make sure no one, including yourself, is in contact with the victim during this process.
  7. Follow voice prompts: Based on the analysis, the defibrillator will provide voice prompts to guide you through the necessary actions. These prompts will include instructions to administer a shock or for you to continue performing CPR.
  8. Deliver a shock (if advised): If the defibrillator determines that a shock is required, it will instruct you to stand clear of the victim and press the designated shock button. Ensure that no one is touching the victim while the shock is being delivered.
  9. Keep performing CPR: If a shock is not advised or after delivering a shock, the defibrillator will guide you to continue to perform CPR. Follow the instructions provided by the device and continue until professional help arrives.
  10. Wait for medical professionals: After using the defibrillator, it is crucial to wait for medical professionals to take over. They will assess the victim’s condition and provide any necessary further care.


How AEDdonate Can Help

Our goal at AEDdonate is to help your community be prepared in the event of a Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA). Whatever you need, whether it’s a village, workplace, sports facility, school, or simply your local telephone box, AEDdonate can provide you with a one-stop service to make sure there are no weak links in the chain of survival.

AEDdonate is committed to improving survival from out-of-hospital cardiac arrests, supporting the placement and use of Automated External Defibrillators (AED) in local communities.

We achieve this by allowing communities to fundraise or purchase an AED which can then be registered with your local Ambulance Trust for use in an Emergency.

This will help protect communities from the UK’s biggest killer, SCA. By working together we CAN save lives.

CONTACT US today about getting a defibrillator in your area, or CLICK HERE to donate. 

01785 472224