AEDs Gone Wrong
Updated: Feb 8
It’s late, and weirdly quiet; the grocery store you’re at is about to close and they’ve just turned off the music. You hope you can get everything on your shopping list before the store closes. The only other shopper in the store is at the end of the aisle. “Thank goodness,” you think, “at least I’m not the only one here.” As you’re hastily wheeling your cart down the frozen aisle, the other shopper collapses. You’re startled and terrified. Thankfully, you’ve been educated and trained on what to do in a situation like this.
“Help! Help! I need an AED!”
You dial 911 and begin frantically removing clothes from this unconscious woman hoping that someone has heard your cry for help. As you run to the end of the aisle to see if anyone is around, a grocer bumps into you, AED in hand. With trembling hands you stick the pads onto the woman’s chest. You press the power button on the AED. Nothing happens. You press it again. “Why isn’t this working?”
What went wrong?
The battery of this AED is dead, significantly increasing the chances that this woman could soon be too. You begin CPR, but you know you need to use the AED to improve her chances of surviving. At this point, all you can do is hope that EMS arrives soon. This grocery store had the tools to save this shopper’s life, but it failed by not ensuring that its AED was functional. The fact of the matter is that dead, but accessible AEDs are very common.
There are immense consequences for not maintaining these life-saving devices. AEDs, if they are not properly maintained, are likely not going to be functional when you need to use them to save a life. Batteries and pads in AEDs have to be replaced periodically. AEDs do have automated self-tests, but if no one is actively maintaining the device and able to respond to a failed self-test, this feature is obsolete. An outdated AED also means that its warranty expires and thus the “indemnity of good faith” expires with it. To avoid third party maintenance costs, many facilities, like this grocery store choose to maintain their AED on their own. Except in this outlined scenario, they didn’t do it. It is essential that AED owners conduct monthly maintenance checks and keep records about the working status of the AED to guarantee their AED is functional.
Pelham Fire Department’s EMS director, Matt Maples and his team have observed this oversight in their city’s AED maintenance. They are planning to take action to replace outdated AEDs, implement new ones, and conduct monthly maintenance checks on them. Not to mention they plan to begin an education and certification program so residents and employees of Pelham have the opportunity to be trained in CPR and AED usage. This is a hefty responsibility that adds to their already busy schedules, but the Pelham Fire Department believes that this is a task they cannot afford to ignore.
So what should you do?
Make sure that you have the more recent version of your AED. There are massive advantages in using newer AEDs, as these devices have better technology for quicker and more accurate shock analyses, more handy features, and will be overall more efficient and accessible.
Refer to your AED manual and make clear the date by which the AED battery and pads must be replaced.
If you recognize that your batteries or pads are about to expire, order the replacements ahead of time to take into account shipping time. This way when you throw away the expired pads or batteries, your AED will never be out of commission.
Your AED will most likely have a flashing button on the face of the machine. Make sure that it is green at all times. If the light flashes red, your AED is faulty and needs maintenance.