Cardiac Arrest Awareness Month: The Importance of AEDs


 This month is cardiac arrest awareness month.  Several posts have dealt with key issues related to cardiac arrests.  Now, let's focus on the importance of Automated External Defibrillators or AEDs.

An AED is a lightweight and portable device that delivers an electric shock through the chest to the heart.  The shock can stop an irregular rhythm and allow a normal rhythm to resume.  The devices are safe and easy to use.  Along with the quick use of CPR, AEDs increase a patient's chance of survival.  In fact, without such measures, a victim's survival rate drops 7 to 10 percent for every minute that passes.

The American Heart Association has been working since the late 1990s to address policy needs related to CPR and AEDs.  While there has been significant success, there is much work left to do.  Here are a few highlights:

Federal Policy - With the support of great advocates, airlines are now required to have an AED onboard commercial flights and staff are trained in CPR and AED use.

Federal Policy - Congress created the Rural and Community Access to Emergency Devices Program, which is administered by the Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA). This competitively awarded state grant program allows communities to buy AEDs, place them in public areas where cardiac arrest is likely to occur, and train lay rescuers and first responders in their use. The program has been successful, but underfunded. In 2002, 6,400 AEDs were purchased, and 38,800 individuals were trained in their use.  However, In 2008, only 225 AEDs were purchased and 849 individuals were trained in their use and in 2009, less than 8% of applicants were funded.  In FY 2012, only 6%, or just eight of the approved applications, were funded. 

Federal Policy - The Cardiac Arrest Survival Act of 2000 encourages placement of AEDs in federal buildings and ensures federal liability protection for those who acquire or use an AED to help save a life.

State Policy - The American Heart Association and its advocates worked to address bystander Good Samaritan legislation in all 50 states.  This allows liability coverage for bystanders, regardless of training, to use CPR or an AED to save the life of another.

State Policy - States have worked to address the program needs and liability coverage for those placing an AED.  While the laws vary from state to state, efforts focused on removing barriers to placement. 

What Can You Do?

  • Learn CPR!  Most cardiac arrests happen in the home.  By learning CPR, you could be the difference for a loved one.  Visit to find a class or training solution for you.
  • Does your workplace have an AED?  AEDs should be placed in public areas where large amounts of people gather or where people at high risk for heat attacks are.  To learn more about AED placement, visit the American Heart Association AED Resource site.  Then, talk to your employer about placing an AED.
  • Finally, learn more about efforts to increase bystander CPR.  Visit


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