It’s no secret that automated external defibrillators (AEDs) save lives.
Studies show that 90 percent of the time, AEDs can detect a heart rhythm that should be defibrillated, according to the American Heart Association. And an AED shock—along with cardiopulmonary resuscitation and a 9-1-1 call—is vital to improving survival from cardiac arrest.
What isn’t as well known is that you don’t need to be a medical expert to use an AED. These portable electronic devices are designed to be used by lay rescuers as well as first responders. Aera takes that AED user-friendliness a step further by training employees how and when to operate them.
“Don’t be afraid to use an AED,” said Chris Miller, member of the Belridge emergency medical response team and a former paramedic. “They’re simple to use. Each AED has a computerized voice that talks and gives you prompts. It will walk you through the process.”
As part of its commitment to workplace safety, Aera trains all field employees in AED use during their annual mandatory environmental safety training. Office personnel learn CPR and AED on a volunteer basis. Aera has about 90 AEDs strategically placed at all field operations and locations. “The idea is not to have to travel more than 90 seconds to access an AED,” said Miller, who always carries one in his car.
Most sudden cardiac arrests result from ventricular fibrillation. If the heart isn’t quickly treated, or “defibrillated,” death is likely. An AED works by delivering an electric shock through the chest to the heart. The lightweight device has a built-in computer that checks a victim’s heart rhythm through adhesive electrodes. The AED shock can stop an irregular heart rhythm and allow a normal rhythm to resume following sudden cardiac arrest.
“Most adults who suffer from sudden cardiac arrest have about a 95 percent chance of being in a shockable EKG rhythm within the first four to six minutes,” said Tony Castiglione, president of Life Saver Safety, which provides safety training and consultation to Aera. “Therefore, if an AED is able to deliver a shock within one to two minutes of the first onset, the victim has about a 74 percent chance of survival.”
Those efforts matter. A quick AED response by Belridge employees saved Steve Lynch’s life when he collapsed in front of co-workers in 2014. While headed home from work last December, Miller used an AED on a person lying unconscious on the side of a busy Bakersfield highway.
“When it comes to a cardiac response situation, doing something is better than doing nothing, and time is of the essence,” said Chris Vochoska, EHS training advisor.
“Any time you have an unconscious person, first call 9-1-1,” added Miller, “and then bring the AED to his or her side. The AED will advise you if a shock is needed. You decide when to push the button to deliver the shock.”
Photo caption: EHS team members Alan Gettman (left) and Kevin Gall (right) practice AED training with “victim” Chase Hall.