An estimated 35,000 cardiac arrests happen in Canada every year, according to the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada.
Cardiac arrest — or heart attack — can strike anyone, anywhere, anytime, at any age, without warning.
The vast majority happen in public places or at home, and few people survive. But survival rates double if someone performs CPR and uses an automated external defibrillator (AED). Since 2010, Heart and Stroke, together with funding partners, has placed more than 15,000 AEDs in communities across Canada.
What is an AED?
An automated external defibrillator (AED) is an easy-to-use, portable device that can restart the heart of a person who is in cardiac arrest.
If someone unexpectedly collapses, is unresponsive and not breathing, that person is likely experiencing cardiac arrest. Their heart has stopped beating and their blood is no longer circulating oxygen to the brain, heart and vital organs. The person is at a high risk of dying, and every second counts.
You could help save a life if you respond quickly and take these actions.
Call 9-1-1 for help and shout to another bystander to get an AED.
Start CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) to keep the blood circulating.
Use an AED as soon as possible to restart the heart.
Doing CPR – placing the heel of your hand in the centre of the chest, interlocking the fingers of your other hand on top, and pushing hard and fast – keeps the blood circulating, but it does not restart the heart.
Only an AED can. The portable device administers an electrical shock to the unconscious person that causes their heart to resume its natural rhythm.
Using an AED
Anyone can use an AED. You don’t have to be a medical professional.
The device is smart — it will only administer an electrical shock to a heart that needs it.
AEDs are available in various models, but they all operate in fundamentally the same way.
You can use an AED by following three basic steps:
Turn the power on. Either open the lid or press the power button. All AEDs give voice prompts. They also display clear, simple visual instructions.
Attach the AED pads to the person’s bare chest. There will be an illustration on the AED pads; place the pads exactly as shown in the pictures.
Press the shock button if the voice prompt tells you to. If no shock is advised, continue doing CPR until emergency medical services arrive.