How To Use An AED in 7 Steps

AED in 7 Steps cover photo

In the event of a cardiac emergency, timing is everything. Intervening with an automated external defibrillator (AED) can save a victim’s life after cardiac arrest, but it is imperative that you act quickly. You don’t want to waste time trying to figure out how to operate the device––so it’s important to know what to do if you ever need to use an AED.

Even though AEDs are designed to be very simple to work, it can be an intimidating experience if you’ve never used one before. Understanding how the device works and what the steps for using an AED are can help you feel ready should you ever need to operate one. This guide breaks down AED instructions into easy-to-remember steps so that you’ll be prepared.

What is an AED?

An AED is a medical device used to treat victims of cardiac arrest. It analyzes a patient’s heart rhythm to determine whether a shock is needed to restore a normal heartbeat and if it determines that a shock is necessary, it delivers a shock to the patient using an electrical current. Generally, they are used in conjunction with CPR.

AEDs have been used for decades and have a fascinating history. They can be used by first responders and medical professionals, but bystanders can use them, too. Unfortunately, there is a common misconception that AEDs are dangerous and could cause harm to the operator or other bystanders. In reality, AEDs are a safe, effective tool that pose little risk when used properly.

Why are AEDs important?

AEDs are powerful, life-saving devices that can dramatically increase a patient’s likelihood of recovery after cardiac arrest. A study from the NIH revealed that cardiac arrest victims had a 67% chance of survival when a bystander uses an AED, as opposed to just 43% when they wait for emergency medical responders to arrive. When it comes to cardiac arrest, every minute counts. AEDs are an efficient way to treat patients quickly while you wait for first responders, even with little to no medical knowledge.

How do you use an AED?

Not only are AEDs incredibly effective, they’re also incredibly easy to use. In fact, they were specially designed to be user-friendly and simple to operate, even without extensive training. By following just a few steps, you can administer an electric shock in minutes and help restore the patient’s regular heartbeat.

Did you know that most AEDs include instructions? Many units are even equipped with voice prompts to walk the user through the process. However, it’s still helpful to review the procedure and keep your skills sharp, just in case.

The proper steps for operating an AED are as follows:

First, check the scene and make sure that it is safe to approach the victim. If there is another bystander around, have them call 911 for help.

Step 1 Assess the scene

Once an AED is available, turn it on and begin following the prompts. Some devices will call out voice prompts while others show the steps on a screen.

Step 2 Turn on AED and follow prompts

Remove any clothing that is covering the victim’s chest. Attach one electrode pad to the upper right side of the patient’s chest, then place the other on the lower left side of the patient’s chest.

Step 3 Attach electrode pads

If necessary, plug the pad connecter cable into the AED.

Step 4 Plug in AED Machine

Let the AED check for a shockable rhythm. Make sure that no one is touching the patient and call out “clear!”.

Step 5 Check for shockable rhythm

If the AED determines a shock is necessary, make sure that no one is touching the patient and call out “clear!”. Once it is safe to do so, administer the shock.

Step 6 Administer shock if necessary

Begin administering CPR with chest compressions.

Step 7 Administer chest compression CPR


Learn More About AEDs

Now that you’ve studied up on how to use AED, dive into more life-savings topics with BLS training at SureFire CPR. Whether you’re a future first responder or just a civilian with an interest in healthcare, getting CPR certified is an amazing way to learn new things and help your community.

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out! Our team of experts is passionate about CPR and we’re here to help in any way we can. Give us a call at (888) 277-3143 or use our online contact form.

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About the author

I spent 15 years as a firefighter and paramedic...

And too often I would arrive on the scene of someone unconscious, surrounded by a circle of people feeling helpless. Sometimes those people would even have CPR training but lacked the confidence and experience to act.

That’s why I started SureFire CPR. Our classes are practical and engaging – teaching you the crucial skills you need to know what to do and feel empowered to take action.

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Zack Zarrilli, Founder

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