Congratulations! You have decided to make the commitment of implementing an AED (Automatic External Defibrillator) program for your business. You are joining many other businesses that have made the same commitment to their employees and customers to ensure a safe workplace environment.
There is no question. Having an AED program in your business is as important as having smoke detectors and fire extinguishers. An AED is a life-saving, computerized, portable device that checks a person’s heart rhythm during a sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) and advises the user on whether or not an electric shock is needed for resuscitation. It is an important part of your emergency response plan and gives your employees peace of mind.
A 2003 study conducted by ACOEM (American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine) found businesses that had implemented an AED program and actually used their AED at least once to help save a life resulted in a 66% success rate – meaning 66% of the victims of SCA survived. This kind of positive outcome is why organizations like ACOEM, American Heart Association (AHA), OSHA, and the Red Cross highly recommend AEDs in the workplace.
Now you need to decide on which AED to invest. So what is the best AED for your business? This is a difficult question to give a definitive answer. There is no particular AED known to save more lives than others – they all save lives. All AEDs on the market today have to be approved by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration). Whichever model you choose is going to accomplish your goal of creating a safe workplace environment.
When it comes to making the decision of which model to buy, the AHA encourages potential buyers to consider all models and make the selection based on the buyer’s particular needs.
AEDs on the market for public use are easy to use and require minimal training. There are many different models available, and they all offer the same basic functions. Even the most basic models of AEDs include instructions for applying pads to a sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) victim, an analyze button to press so the unit can analyze the victim’s heart rhythm, and a stand clear warning for when a shock is given. They also advise when to press the shock button, or if it is a fully automatic system, it indicates that a shock is about to be given.
The differences in AEDs come down to factors such as initial investment, ownership costs, included accessories, CPR guidance, size, ruggedness, overall operation, advanced features, display options, warranty and upgrading options.
The primary considerations that will drive your decision are your budget, the environment where the AED will be located / used, and the comfort level of the responders.
It is important to consider the total cost of an AED when making a decision on a model. Having a specific budget in place will make the decision easier.
In addition to the initial investment of the equipment, there are long-term costs to consider. Remember to incorporate the costs of CPR/AED training (initial and ongoing refresher) and medical oversight (regulations vary by state).
AEDs on the market today run between $1200 and $3000. Be sure to find out what is included in the initial price. 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. The more features and services that are included increase the initial price tag, but lessen the lifetime cost of a unit.
Replacement pads vary in price from just under $40 to $170. This large variance in price is due to a few factors. One factor is the shelf life, or how often the pads need to be replaced. Typically, pads need to be replaced every two years, but some have a shelf life of up to 5 years. Keep in mind that pads expire because the adhesive material they are made of breaks down over time. If they do not adhere properly to the victim, the AED will not be able to analyze the heart rhythm.
Some models have pads and batteries as a combined packaged, which may increase the price over just buying pads but offer a cost savings over buying pads and batteries separately.
Advanced technologies, such as pads designed with CPR sensors to use with AEDs that evaluate and guide CPR. This technology offers a valuable user-friendly feature, but comes with a higher price.
You should also factor in the cost of battery replacement. Most AEDs use lithium batteries. Replacement batteries cost anywhere from $35 to $395. Some batteries are included with pad replacements. Battery life varies from two to ten years with some models offering a rechargeable option. Battery life varies according to how much it is used. Batteries operate functions such as AED self-checks which occur daily, weekly and/or monthly.
Warranty is another cost consideration. A typical warranty on an AED ranges from 5-10 years. Some manufacturers offer an extended warranty. This affects your long-term cost of AED ownership, particularly if something on the unit breaks or malfunctions.
Also consider the cost of other accessories, such as a carrying case if the AED needs to be transported and a secure cabinet or shelf for AED storage.
The location where the AED will be stored and potentially used is an important consideration. AEDs vary in size, weight, ruggedness. Examine the environment of your place of business and determine the conditions in which your AED may be used. Environmental factors can affect the reliability of the unit – it is critical that an AED functions properly at the time of need. Specifications of AED models will guide you as to which model is best for your workplace.
- Size and weight – if your AED is doing some traveling in a rescue pack, a smaller more lightweight unit may be desirable. AED models range from just under 2.5 lbs. to just over 7 lbs. Unit dimensions vary from 8” x 7.25” x 1.9” to 5.25” x 9.5” x 11.5”. If your business is tight on space, smaller dimensions will allow for easier storage.
- Water/Dust Resistance – if there is the possibility of exposure to water or dust in your work environment, inquire into the IP (Ingress Protection) rating on the AED. This two-digit system is an established standard that allows comparison of an electronic device’s ability to withstand dust particles and water exposure.
- Ruggedness – if there is a large possibility your AED may be dropped or have to withstand vibration, check into models that have undergone rugged testing using U.S. Military Standards (MIL-STD-80), which specifically measure various environmental conditions including shock and vibration.
- Temperature – if your AED may have to experience temperature extremes, look into the temperature range specifications for standby and operation of the unit.
- Altitude – if your business requires the AED to be transported on an airplane, investigate the altitude range the unit can withstand.
- Noise / distraction level – if your work environment is noisy, loud, or has a high level of distraction, consider an AED model with a visual guide in addition to audio.
Comfort Level of Responders
A very important factor when evaluating available AED models is the comfort level of your designated responders. While they need to be trained in CPR and AED use, fortunately, they will rarely need to use these skills in a real life-saving situation. CPR/AED training ensures the ability to operate the AED easily when the time comes; however, advanced features may prove to be valuable in a stressful rescue situation.
Advanced features, such as CPR guidance (when to stop and start chest compressions) and/or CPR evaluation that measures the compression depth and number of compressions. For CPR to be effective, a compression depth of 2” and rate of 100 compressions per minute are recommended by American Heart Association. More guidance may result in a better outcome for a victim of SCA.
All AEDs are user-friendly, but it is important to evaluate and compare the features that will ensure a high level of confidence when needed. Your AED should be “rescue-ready”, meaning it is ready, up-to-date, and in working order at all times. Features such as frequency of self-testing and clear indications of malfunction mean your AED is more likely to be rescue-ready.
For maximum user confidence, all functions should be clearly marked and audio/visual capabilities should be easily accessible and easy to follow.
Having an emergency response plan that includes an AED program ensures the safety and well-being of employees and visitors. Ultimately, the best AED is accessible and ready-to-use at the time of need.
The best AED model for your business is the one that fits your budget requirements, provides features that minimize the stress and increase the chance of a successful outcome during a lifesaving event, and meets the needs of your work environment.
Contact an AED distributor to learn about the features and specifications for the different models to determine which is best for your business.