January 18, 2021

Automatic external defibrillators may be found in many public places such as gyms, churches, schools, arena venues, etc. They are normally placed where the lay public (you) can easily locate them and obtain them for emergency use. AED should be applied as soon as is initiated.

When I approach the topic of placing a defibrillator in their business, the issue of cost is the first thing to come up. The 1-2k price tag can seem stifling to a smaller business. Of course, this is easily offset by having peace of mind that you have now elevated your business by demonstrating good responsibility.

Another item of concern is liability*. The use of a Public Access AED is covered by Good Samaritan laws in all 50 states*. These machines are also placed under rigorous FDA approval standards for safety and effectiveness.

                          “I don’t want to purchase a defibrillator because the fire department is just down the street.”

The fact is that once a witnessed sudden cardiac arrest (WSCA) occurs, the timer to successful resuscitation begins. As with an unwitnessed SCA, time has become a mystery making quick responses more necessary. With the heart not pumping, cardiac damage can begin immediately and the brain will be affected in 4-6 minutes. In the case of an actual heart attack, the sooner the heart can beat, the more damage slows down; another way to look at it is: there will be more healthy heart tissue to work with. So high-quality CPR combined with rapid defib can increase survival from witnessed SCA from 5-80%. In my county, the WSCA save rate is well over 50% with about half of those supported by the presence and use of an AED.

The issue of response time from the fire dept is complicated. Understand that though it may only take 3 minutes or less for the nearby fire station to reach your business, other time restraints are occurring. Below is the list of events I call “the first 10 minutes” these are the most general factors that factor in the time of the arrest to the time of defib by professional emergency responders. Consider especially that the firehouse may only be blocks away but you may not know that: the units are on another incident, or perhaps the station is not staffed at all.

  • Time from the event to the recognition of emergency
  • Time to dial 911 and explain the emergency
  • Dispatcher notifies fire dept
  • EMS personnel depart from; drills, meals, workouts, sleep, etc.
  • EMS personnel must locate the mapping
  • Response
  • On the scene, locate a specific location
  • Change of rescuers, and setup/ eval time…

The level of need is closely tied to the occupancy load and activity. Churches, high schools, urgent care clinics, and health clubs are at the top of the list.

Consider discussing this with your local CPR/ Defib instruction company, or even your local EMS provider to enable a more informed decision.

Brian M Dotson


CPR, AED, First Aid

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