Skip to main content

What's Up Magazine

A-OK with AEDS: Automated External Defibrillators are changing the emergency medical game and saving lives

Oct 07, 2015 02:00PM ● By Cate Reynolds

Heart Attacks in U.S. (per year)

735,000 overall

525,000 are 1st heart attack

210,000 are 2nd, 3rd, etc. heart attack

Your Chance of Surviving a Heart Attack

Solo (no witness): 10.6%

In Good Company (witnessed): 31.4%

Each year, about 735,000 Americans suffer a heart attack. Silver lining you ask? Not all heart attacks are fatal (of those about 135,000 die) and to up the chances of surviving a heart attack, there are many steps one can take. In fact, there are several steps you can take to potentially save others. Firstly, cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) certification is a very useful tool to have under your belt and can be used in all types of emergency medical situations. And taking that a step further is automated external defibrillator (AED) certification. You know in the movies, when you see someone on a stretcher raced through the halls of a crowded hospital being jolted back to life with the press of a defibrillator? Well an AED can do just that, and they are available for your own home or office.

An AED is a portable electronic device that automatically detects life-threatening cardiac arrest in a patient, and is able to treat them through defibrillation—the application of electrical therapy which stops the heart arrhythmia, allowing it to reestablish an effective rhythm. AEDs became available to the public in the early 2000s and now there are companies that specialize in the certification and training of using an AED, teaching individuals, as well as full companies, how to use these machines in emergency situations.

According to Ryan Killough, emergency medical expert and owner of Heart Rescue LLC, “There are not nearly as many AEDs in public places as resuscitation experts would like to see. The difference in having one versus not having one is clearly the difference between life and death. With an AED present and used during sudden cardiac arrest, the victim’s chance of survival is between 60–80 percent; without one the chance of survival is significantly less.” Overall, AEDs are changing the way people respond to a medical crisis and we’ve got the statistics to prove it:

• According to the American Red Cross, AEDs save 50,000 lives each year

• In 2011, about 326,200 people experienced out-of-hospital cardiac arrests in the United States. Of those treated by emergency medical services, 10.6 percent survived; of the 19,300 bystander-witnessed out-of-hospital cardiac arrests in the same year, 31.4 percent survived

• For each minute defibrillation is delayed, the chance of survival is reduced approximately 10 percent

• Studies suggest that when AEDs are used to deliver a shock within the first minute of cardiac arrest, the patient’s heart can be restarted and be beating on its own again before EMS arrives in as high as 90 percent of the cases

The American Heart Association offers CPR and AED training through training centers. To locate a training center near you, call your nearest AHA office or 1-888-CPRLINE. You may also visit

AED training courses average 3–4 hours in length and can be done on or off site with individuals or group. AEDs can cost $1,200–2,900 and should always be placed in a protected, yet central, location. A couple thousand dollars is a small price to pay in order to keep yourself, family members, or colleagues safe and prepared.

–Jane Bornstein