Automated External Defibrillator

New estimates attribute 456,000 deaths a year to sudden cardiac arrest. We can expect most organizations will soon implement these programs.

AED programs share much common ground with safety programs that address fires, earthquakes, and other emergencies. All require a thorough plan. For an AED program, the plan addresses where the AEDs and other emergency medical supplies will be located, who will respond to a medical emergency, what training they will need, and who will manage and document the planning, deployment process, and training.
Typically, organizations assign one person the responsibility for implementing their AED program. If you are that “program manager,” you should be committed to learning about aspects of emergency medicine, sudden cardiac arrest, and AEDs.

Sudden cardiac arrest occurs when an electrical malfunction causes the heart to quiver ineffectively or stop beating, stopping blood flow to the brain and vital organs. Fewer than 5 percent of SCA victims survive, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Survival rates of 75 percent have been achieved in organizations with defibrillation programs. An SCA is not a myocardial infarction or heart attack. A heart attack typically occurs when a blockage restricts blood flow to the heart, killing the muscle because of inadequate blood supply.

For the past several years, the American Heart Association’s estimate of 220,000 deaths per year caused by SCA was enough to make it the leading cause of death in America. However, new estimates attribute 456,000 deaths a year to SCA. Couple these sobering statistics with recent AED endorsements and guidelines from the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM) and Building Owners and Managers Association International (BOMA), and a “prompt letter” from the federal Office of Management and Budget encouraging OSHA to initiate regulations mandating AEDs in the workplace, and it is reasonable to expect that most organizations soon will implement AED programs.
The chief factors affecting deployment criteria include the financing committed to the project and federal, state, local, and medical regulations.

If there is a common thread that runs through all AED program recommendations and guidelines, it is the recognition that saving the life of a sudden cardiac arrest victim and protecting employees requires more than buying an AED and adding it to a medical supplies cabinet.