Automated External Defibrillators (AED)
A defibrillator is a small handheld, battery-powered piece of life-saving first aid equipment. It works by administering a high-energy electrical shock designed to return the heart back into a normal rhythm and can massively improve the chances of recovery for a victim of a suspected cardiac arrest. Although health and safety legislation does not require that you have an Automated External Defibrillator (AED) in your workplace, many churches have now either acquired an AED or allowed for one to be located at their premises for community use.
The automated defibrillators are designed so that in an emergency they can be used by anyone, even if they have not had formal training. The defibrillator gives audible step-by-step instruction to the user when the equipment is activated.
They generally have a fail-safe system which will not allow for a shock to be administered where a pulse is detected and, as such, the user is unlikely to shock the injured party in error or cause further distress and harm. AEDs are considered safe for use by the general public or any first responder to the casualty.
Although not required, full training in the use of an AED is likely to make the user more confident and is now an integral part of the syllabus for first aid at work courses. Congregations should ensure that the use of AEDs is covered in any first aid training provided.
The Church of Scotland has invested, promoted and agreed to publicly host AEDs on many church premises as part of an ongoing community initiative with the charity St John Scotland, which has placed more than 100 defibrillators in Edinburgh and is continuing to work with communities across Scotland to increase public access to the life-saving devices as a greater community initiative.
The congregation(s) should ensure that the AED placed at their location has been suitably registered with the National Defibrillator Network and has been added to the central database that provides the Scottish Ambulance Service with the nearest location and status of defibrillators that may be accessed for use by the public.
AEDs are not expected to require any ongoing maintenance tasks to keep them operational, other than replacing expired batteries, electrode pads and other consumable items (razor, airway adjuncts and plastic gloves). Even then, the shelf life of unused units is usually 3-5 years, so any maintenance tasks are infrequent if the device remains on standby mode and unused status.
All manufacturer's instructions and guidance on maintenance and battery replacement intervals should be followed and recorded accordingly. Some manufacturers may provide a replacement AED while one is removed for servicing or repair, and the process for this should be clarified and clearly understood by the Charity Trustees.
All currently supplied AEDs perform regular self-checks and if a problem is detected it will be indicated by the AED unit's instrument panel. In most cases, they show this by a warning sign or light visible on front of the machine.
Defibrillator monthly monitoring check
Where AED's are not monitored and maintained by a third party, the appointed responsible person for the AED should complete a monthly check of the equipment to ensure no system failings or warning signs are indicated. If any issues are identified via this check or any ad-hoc instances outside of the monthly check cycle i.e. noticeable damage reported by a member of the congregation, immediate action is required to resolve and ensure the lifesaving equipment is at its optimal and ready state (see AED monthly checklist template in the documents section below).
Where a hard-wired, heated outdoor safe storage system for the AED is fitted, the wiring and/or power supply should also form part of the monthly check and monitored accordingly for any visible damage to the wire housing/protective covers etc, particularly where it is mounted to conductive steel railings or likely to come into contact with the general public or building users.
In the event of a fault being identified with the equipment and rendered ‘Out of Use', the appointed responsible person is required to update the National Defibrillator Network's online register, which in turn updates the National Defibrillator location database.This ensures the Scottish Ambulance Service are aware the equipment at your location is rendered ‘Out of Use' and they can direct the public or first responders to an alternative AED site whilst the faulty unit is not in operation. Once the equipment has been replaced, the appointed responsible person must update the online register to confirm the equipment is rendered operable again.
Where a fault is identified with the equipment or it is removed for servicing AND there is an arrangement in place for a manufacturer to provide a replacement, if the replacement is not available at the time of removal, the appointed responsible person is required to update the online register of the status.
Likely reasons to update the National Defibrillator Network:
- Power failure
- Being replaced
If this task is delegated to individuals within the congregation, allowances must be made to ensure that the checks are not neglected during absence on holidays, sick leave etc.