Although laws vary depending on what state or country you are in, there are some basic rules you can follow to make sure you are in compliance. Most requirements fall into 3 categories for AED ownership.
First, is Acquisition: AEDs are Class III Medical Devices controlled by the FDA which means you need a doctor to authorize (prescribe) for you to purchase the device. Most resellers of AEDs can assist with obtaining an AED prescription.
Second, comes Deployment: Where and how to put an AED in your facility following both the American Heart Association (AHA), OSHA and ADA recommendations to access, retrieve and be able to use an AED in under 3 minutes. In addition to placement, there may be local requirements regarding who can use the AED and when. These requirements sometimes fall under what is called Medical Direction or the creation of an Emergency Response Plan and protocol by a doctor. It should also include notifying your local EMS or 911 center that you have an AED and where it is located so they can assist in an emergency. (Registering through the National AED Registry can provide this information for local, regional and national use.)
Third, is Maintenance: AEDs require ongoing inspections much like Fire Extinguishers to ensure they will work when needed. You will want to understand your manufacturer's guidelines as well as local requirements to keep a proper log of when the last inspection was performed.
AEDs are easy to use and even easier to maintain. Each brand has a different way of displaying a readiness status, but they all provide some type of status indicator that will display a Green Check, an OK or a Green Light to designate that it has passed its own internal self-test. Check your user guide for details. An AED will only deliver a shock when properly applied and a specific condition called Cardiac Arrest is in a “Shockable Rhythm”. Just because the AED does not shock does not mean that it is not working; not all cardiac arrests are “shockable”. Some AEDs even offer CPR assistance and feedback. Although not every victim of Cardiac Arrest will need a shock they will all need high-quality CPR.
AED maintenance and inspections can be somewhat ambiguous when researching what is required. Often times manufacturers will state to routinely inspect while local law may refer to following manufacturer guideless. With an ever-changing regulatory environment, there have been laws that required anywhere from weekly to quarterly inspections. The industry standard has been set to monthly which coincides with most device self-test schedules. If inspections are due once a month, that still leaves the question: “What are you inspecting?” Typically, inspections are as simple as a visual check of the status indicator window to ensure that it displays a Passing icon or light. There are however some areas in which a more detailed or thorough inspection is required and may include the inspection of batteries and electrode pads as well as any connectors and wires. These full checks, as well as the visual inspections, need to be recorded to create a maintenance history for the device.
In general, No. Today’s AEDs do not have the ability to automatically communicate to the web. Technological advances are closing the gaps on AED communication capabilities but rigorous FDA testing means that AEDs are not as quick to adopt features like WiFi and Wireless Cellular Data plans. There are a few solutions available and you will want to ask your reseller for details on what is currently available.
One of the most confusing things about owning an AED, is knowing when to replace the pads and batteries. Thankfully, AEDs are smart enough to provide warnings when the batteries become low and approach time to replace. You will need to listen for an audible chirp/beep or a change in the status indicator to know when time to replace them. This can be difficult in loud areas for devices that are rarely seen or in a cabinet. Batteries and electrode pads have “install by” and/or “expiration” dates stamped on them. Expirations vary widely so these could need replacing anywhere from annually to every 5 years depending on the manufacturer. Best practice is to have a method to track these expirations to insure the AED is working properly. Another thing to keep in mind is that AEDs typically are unable to determine when an electrode pad has expired so it is critical to track and inspect those on a regular basis.
AEDs are designed for anyone, at any skill level, to be able to use with little or no training but it is always best to have trained responders available to reduce the amount of time necessary to begin the rescue. Laws are constantly changing and there are some states that do require trained responders. You will need to verify your local regulations.
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