A shock to the System

When Cardiac Emergencies arise, AEDs are there to save lives.

Airports, stadiums, churches, swimming pools – you name it, and an automated external defibrillator (AED) is probably there. 

The life-saving, portable devices, available for lay responders since the late 1990s, use electrical stimulation to restore normal heart rhythms to people suffering from cardiac arrest, a condition that can be fatal if not treated within minutes.

With heart disease still the number one killer of both men and women in the United States , AEDs are starting to show up in some pretty unlikely places.  Some people are even getting them for their homes.

Sudden cardiac arrest can happen to anyone, regardless of gender, age or health status.  Providing quick defibrillation with an AED increases a person’s chance of survival.

AEDs, which are about the size of a laptop computer, use voice prompts to instruct users on what to do in a potentially life-threatening situation.  After the unit is turned on, the user is told to put two electrodes that are provided with the AED onto the victim’s chest.  The device then monitors the victim’s heart rhythm.  If a shock is needed, the AED will charge itself and tell the user to move away from the victim and to press the shock button. 

There are not big dangers for the AED operator, just as long as he or she is clear of the patient when a shock is delivered.

Early defibrillation is one of four links in what is called the Chain of Survival, according to the American Heart Association.  In order, they are:

  • Early access – Recognize an emergency and call 9ll.
  • Early CPR – Start CPR directly after cardiac arrest occurs.
  • Early defibrillation – Defibrillate the victim as soon as possible with an AED.  They are most effective if used within three to five minutes.
  • Early advanced care – Trained health care professionals arrive to provide advanced care.

When CPR is provided and an AED is in place to deliver a shock within three minutes of collapse, survival rates from ventricular fibrillation cardiac arrest may be as high as 74 percent, according to the American Heart Association.  Only around 5 percent of sudden cardiac arrest victims survive in places where no AED programs exist.

Studies have shown that AEDs are able to detect heart rhythms that need to be defibrillated 90 percent of the time, according to the American Heart Association.  AEDs are also 95 percent effective in determining when a shock is not needed.


St. Paul ’s has an AED.

It is located in the Washington Avenue entrance above the ushers’ desk.