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Should I Buy an AED for My Business?

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As a business owner, you know how important it is to protect your most valuable asset – your employees.  Creating a business culture of safety and security contributes to employee satisfaction and retention.  Maintaining a safe, secured and healthy workplace environment is vital to the growth of your business.

You most likely have established an emergency response plan and invested in security cameras, an entry alarm system, fire alarms / smoke detectors, fire extinguishers, first aid kits and supplies, personal protective equipment (PPE), and signage.  All designed to maintain a safe environment for your place of business.

Have you included an AED program as part of your emergency response plan?  Did you know that a worker is more likely to die from cardiac arrest than from a fire in the workplace?  Having an AED readily available in your workplace could be a lifesaver for an employee or visitor.

There are several important factors to consider when making the decision to invest in an AED for your business.

What is SCA?

The leading cause of death in the U.S., sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) occurs when the heart goes into an abnormal rhythm (ventricular fibrillation or VF) or just stops beating.  When this happens, blood and oxygen cannot circulate throughout the body and the victim collapses.  Without prompt medical assistance, the person will die within minutes.

Cardiac arrest is not the same as a heart attack.  A heart attack occurs when there is a blockage interrupting blood flow to a part of the heart.  This results in death to the heart muscle tissues, but not necessarily death to the victim.  A heart attack may lead to cardiac arrest and sudden death.

CPR, or cardiopulmonary resuscitation, is a lifesaving technique used on someone who has stopped breathing or whose heart has stopped.  CPR can keep oxygenated blood flowing to the brain and other vital organs until a normal heart rhythm can be restored.

The key to survival from SCA is timely initiation of the American Heart Association Chain of Survival, which consists of:

  • Early access and activation of the emergency medical system – calling 911
  • Early CPR – providing chest compressions and rescue breathing
  • Early defibrillation – using an AED
  • Early advanced care – arrival of emergency medical service (EMS)

What Exactly Is an AED?

AED stands for Automatic External Defibrillator.  An AED is a medical device used when a person is in cardiac arrest.  It analyzes the victim’s heart rhythm and determines if a shock (defibrillation) is necessary to re-establish a working rhythm.

There was a time when AEDs were only found in hospitals and emergency rescue vehicles.  With advances in technology allowing for portable and user friendly models, AEDs today are accessible in health clubs, malls, airports, schools, restaurants, hotels, sporting venues and businesses.

The AEDs available today are accurate, safe, and user-friendly.  They guide users with audible or visual prompts and will not deliver a shock unless it is medically necessary.  With proper training, someone without a medical background can effectively use an AED to save a life.

How Will an AED Make My Business Safer?

Does anyone in your workplace know what to do in the event a co-worker, customer, or visitor collapses?  It is very possible this person is suffering from sudden cardiac arrest and could die within minutes.

Having an AED easily accessible within 3-5 minutes from a person suffering from SCA can mean the difference between life and death.

People who go into sudden cardiac arrest may have no warning it is going to occur and no history of heart disease.  SCA does not discriminate.  Young or old, fit or unfit, healthy or ill, it can happen to anyone.

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), more than 420,000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests occur every year in the United States.  About 10,000 of those occur while at work.  Unfortunately, more than 95 percent of the victims die before they reach the hospital.

The use of an AED increases overall survival rates by 60 percent.  The average response time for emergency medical services after calling 911 is 8-12 minutes.  Initiating CPR and defibrillation within 3-5 minutes of collapse, before EMS arrives, dramatically improves chances of survival.  According to OSHA, every minute that passes without CPR or defibrillation decreases a victim’s chance of survival by 10%.

Based on these statistics, it is clear that having an AED on the premises can make your place of business safer.  As more of these devices have become accessible, they have established a proven track record of saving lives in public places and in the workplace.

To be effective, it is essential that employees know that the AED exists, where it is located, and when and how to use it.

What Will An AED Cost My Business?

There are several costs associated with an AED program:

  1. Equipment Cost – an AED unit costs between $1200 and $3000, with an additional ongoing cost of replacement pads and batteries. Models available for non-medical professionals should be easy to use and include a warranty, technical support, long-life or rechargeable batteries, pads, clear shock indicators and visual or voice instructions.  Some models include guided CPR, self-testing modes, AED program management and accessory management support.
  2. Upfront Training — It is important, and depending on your state requirements, that designated employees learn CPR and appropriate use of the AED when the unit is placed into service. Formal training teaches the chain of survival and provides the confidence to react quickly in an SCA emergency.

Accredited CPR/AED classes are available through various organizations, such as American Red Cross, American Heart Association, Health and Safety Institute, and local training agencies.  Classes are available at locations throughout communities or onsite for a group of employees.  The cost of a class varies by region but generally runs between $55 and $75 per person.  Some offer discounts for groups.

  1. Ongoing Training — Initial CPR/AED certification is valid for a specified amount of time, usually 1-2 years. Refresher classes are required to maintain certification.
  2. AED Program Administration — your state may require you to have a written AED program detailing information such as prescription information, medical direction, location, training, documentation, regulations, maintenance schedule and use of the AED. Even if it is not required, AED Program documentation is an important part of an effective emergency response plan for SCA.
  3. Equipment Maintenance – Proper care and maintenance of an AED is necessary to ensure that is in working order when needed. Maintenance checks are typically required weekly or monthly depending on the manufacturer.  Many modes provide and document self-tests monthly, weekly, even daily.

What is My Liability if Something Goes Wrong?

Things can go wrong in an emergency.  Equipment may fail or the victim may not survive.  One of the biggest concerns about implementing an AED program is the liability in the case there is a bad outcome.  The federal government and most states have enacted legislation that legally protects users and owners of AEDs.

The Federal Cardiac Survival Act (CASA) was enacted in the year 2000 with the purpose of improving the dismal survival rates of sudden cardiac arrest victims.  This act provides for strategic placement of AEDs in federal buildings.

Additionally, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and General Services Administration (GSA) developed guidelines for Public Access Defibrillation (PAD) programs in federal facilities.

To encourage placement and use of AEDs in public locations, CASA provides protections from civil liability when an AED is used in an emergency.  CASA extends the protection offered through the Good Samaritan Act to protect both users and acquirers of AEDs.  This means they will not be held liable for any damages that may result from the use of an AED in a public setting, except in cases of gross negligence or willful misconduct.  This protection includes all fifty states and the District of Columbia.

All fifty states and the District of Columbia also have specific AED laws and regulations that limit liability in the use of an AED in an emergency.  Each state also has its own law(s) that protect organizations who own AEDs.  These laws typically mirror CASA of 2000.

Many states have instituted PAD policies recommending or requiring certain organizations and facilities to place AEDs on site.   Some have laws that require medical oversight, documentation, collaboration with local emergency medical services, and/or training.

Since each state has different requirements and laws, it is important to contact your state’s regulatory authority to learn the requirements and laws governing your state.

The Bottom Line

An emergency response plan that includes an AED program with proper training of designated employees ultimately creates a safer work environment for all.  Every place of business should consider an AED program because of the possibility of a cardiac arrest on the premises and the need for timely defibrillation.

You should assess your requirements for investing in an AED and learn the local, state, and federal regulations to ensure compliance.  Contact an AED distributor to learn about the features of available models and to determine which fits your needs.

While there are monetary costs to consider, you cannot put a price on peace of mind and a saved life.

Resources

https://www.osha.gov/Publications/3185.html

https://www.shrm.org/hrdisciplines/safetysecurity/articles/pages/aeds-workplace-benefit-burden.aspx

http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/General/AED-Programs-QA_UCM_323111_Article.jsp#What%20kind%20of%20training

https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/aed/

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