Trending Topics

How to buy an AED

With heart attacks among the leading cause of firefighter line of duty deaths, no fire department can afford not to have one of these on scene

Many fire departments carry an automated external defibrillator on a first-due rig. These portable electronic device automatically diagnoses the potentially life threatening cardiac arrhythmias of ventricular fibrillation and ventricular tachycardia in a patient and is able to treat them through defibrillation, the application of electrical therapy which stops the arrhythmia, allowing the heart to re-establish an effective rhythm.

With heart attacks a leading cause of firefighter death and a good portion of the medical calls we run, having an AED is almost a necessity for even the smallest department. With audio and visual commands, AEDs are designed to be simple to use for firefighters who are not EMTs.

Fire and rescue organizations looking to purchase their first AEDs, those looking to replace their devices or those looking to add to their current inventory must begin their journey by keeping the following information in mind.

All AEDs come standard with the following features:

  • All new AEDs in the U.S. market are FDA approved. They all work reliably and there is no supporting research claiming one brand will save more lives than another.
  • All AEDs use visual and voice prompts to easily guide you through a rescue. They all operate similarly.
  • Delivery of a biphasic twin-shock is now the industry standard. Good quality monophasic AEDs can still be found in service.
  • All AEDs test their own circuitry and batteries regularly. The AED lets you know if it’s ready to use with a visual and/or audible indicator.
  • All New AEDs come with a 5- or 7-year manufacturer’s warranty. If you find a company selling an AED with a shorter warranty, it is likely a used device.

Power options
There are several features that can be found on some AED models, but not necessarily on all models.

Batteries vary greatly in life expectancy and cost, which can have a significant impact on your total cost of AED ownership. To determine your average annual battery cost, divide the cost of the battery by the estimated battery life. Rechargeable batteries and battery chargers are available for some AEDs. These are most frequently purchased by EMS units that anticipate higher rates of use.

All AEDs perform internal circuitry and battery checks and will alert you if there is a problem. Some also check for the presence of electrodes.

Different brands and models of AEDs use different energy levels to deliver shocks. Regardless of power output, all new AEDs use a proprietary waveform to deliver the shock appropriately suitable to the victim, at its own internal power setting.

Sights and sounds
Some models have larger or brighter visual displays than others, making them easier to read in low- or bright-light conditions. For most applications where the AED is used by lay rescuers, an ECG display is unnecessary and may even be a distraction. However, medical professionals trained to interpret the results often prefer an AED with ECG output.

No AED is burdensome or difficult to use because of its size or weight, and color is strictly a matter of your personal preference. If you intend to place the AED inside a small first aid or rescue kit, you may opt for one of the more compact models.

All AEDs use voice prompts to help you successfully shock patients out of cardiac arrest. However, not all say the same things.

Some models are capable of more specific prompting than others. Many AED models will prompt you through all of the steps of CPR. Some customers prefer the more detailed approach, others prefer the more simple; the choice is yours.

All AEDs come complete with the basics: the device itself, electrode pads, and batteries. Some come with an extra set of electrodes, a rescue kit or even a carrying case. When comparing AEDs, look for everything included in the package to assess its value.

Cardiac arrest in children is rare, but it does occur. All AEDs can be used to defibrillate both adult and pediatric patients. For pediatric use, the unit adjusts the shock level. For others, it is adjusted through the use of special pediatric pads. It is good practice to purchase pediatric pads if your facility is frequented by children.

On Oct. 18, 2010, the American Heart Association and European Resuscitation Council released their 2010 Guidelines for Resuscitation. These guidelines are updated once every five years, and reflect the latest scientific research on CPR and emergency cardiac care. Because the guidelines impact AED guidelines for a responder, make sure to look for AED equipment that is compliant with the 2010 guidelines.

Current crop of AEDs
Cardiac Science, manufacturer of the Powerheart AED G3 PRO, boasts that its AED has the industry’s first ECG color display along with the other features common in today’s AED.

The Defibtech Lifeline View combines a sleek, user-friendly design with military-grade specifications. It’s also the first and only AED with a full-color interactive display that shows step-by-step videos for performing CPR, rescue breathing and external defibrillation.

Physio-Control’s LIFEPAK 500 is designed to be used by first responders and is one of the industry’s most popular choices. It is rugged and extremely portable, weighing in at about seven pounds.

The Philips HeartStart FRx is designed to be easy to use, rugged and reliable. Designed to surpass rigorous testing requirements, the FRx withstands jetting water, loads up to 500 pounds and a one-meter drop onto concrete.

Zoll Medical’s AED Plus features Real CPR Help, a CPR feedback tool that is able to actually see how well rescuer is doing CPR and provides feedback to help them do it well. Audio and visual prompts help the rescuer to deliver care with confidence and clarity.

Battalion Chief Robert Avsec (ret.) served with the Chesterfield (Virginia) Fire & EMS Department for 26 years. He was an instructor for fire, EMS and hazardous materials courses at the local, state and federal levels, which included more than 10 years with the National Fire Academy. Chief Avsec earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Cincinnati and his master’s degree in executive fire service leadership from Grand Canyon University. He is a 2001 graduate of the National Fire Academy’s EFO Program. Beyond his writing for and, Avsec authors the blog Talking “Shop” 4 Fire & EMS and has published his first book, “Successful Transformational Change in a Fire and EMS Department: How a Focused Team Created a Revenue Recovery Program in Six Months – From Scratch.” Connect with Avsec on LinkedIn or via email.