Understanding AED and CPR: Your Complete Guide to Saving Lives

Table of Contents

What are AED and CPR, and why are they important?

CPR stands for cardiopulmonary resuscitation. It’s a lifesaving medical procedure that is given to someone who is in cardiac arrest. It helps to pump blood around the victim’s body when their heart has stopped beating, or simply cannot pump adequately for various reasons such as a heart attack. To carry out CPR a person performs compressions on the centre of the patient’s chest and gives them a series of mouth-to-mouth or rescue breaths. This is done to manually take over the heart and lungs function, to try to save their life when they are in cardiac arrest. Without CPR the person will die within minutes.

What is an AED?

AED means automated external defibrillator. An AED defibrillator is a lightweight, portable device that delivers an electric shock through the chest to the heart. The shock can potentially reboot an irregular heartbeat and allow a normal rhythm to resume following sudden cardiac arrest (SCA). SCA occurs when the heart malfunctions and stops beating unexpectedly. If not treated within minutes, it quickly leads to death. The heart must be “defibrillated” quickly, so knowing how is an AED used is important, because a victim’s chance of surviving drops by approximately 10 percent for every minute if CPR and an AED are not used and a normal heartbeat isn’t restored.

Why is access to an AED so important?

Using an AED on someone in cardiac arrest does definitely have a positive and better outcome for a victim in SCA. AED’s are portable and can be used by non-medical people (lay-rescuers). The activities listed below are vital to improving chances of survival from SCA:

  • CPR, as well as AED training, are advised, as being AED certified will ensure correct techniques are used, resulting in the best possible outcome for the victim;
  • Rapid notification and calling of the emergency services for assistance – “This person is in cardiac arrest and we are performing CPR so please come quickly”;
  • Prompt starting and continuous delivery of effective CPR is vital to ensure circulation of oxygenated blood to the brain and other vital organs;
  • AED’s can be made part of the emergency response team’s equipment and programs to ensure immediate availability and rapid use.

How does an AED actually work?

After applying the adhesive pads, a built-in computer checks the victim’s heart rhythm through the adhesive pads which are placed on the chest. The computer calculates whether defibrillation is needed. If usage or a shock is required, a recorded voice prompts the rescuer to press the shock button on the AED. “When should the rescuer operating the AED clear the victim?” The voice prompts will say “Stand clear / Clear the victim” BEFORE AND prior to a shock being delivered. This shock momentarily stuns the heart and stops all activity. It gives the heart the chance to resume and start beating effectively again. Audible prompts guide the user through the process.

Who can use an AED?

Non-medical personnel such as bystanders, the general public, police, fire service personnel, flight attendants, security guards, and other lay rescuers can use AEDs. Although formal training in the use of an AED is not required, it is recommended to help the rescuer increase their level of confidence by having AED CPR certification. However, AEDs are intended for use by the general public. Most AEDs use audible voice prompts to guide the user through the whole CPR and AED use process.

The CPR and AED Process

CPR and AED used together, is critical in trying to save someone’s life.  The CPR and AED process is summarised and listed below, so follow this process when a victim collapses and is not responding, not breathing and you suspect does not have a pulse:

  • Ensure it is safe to approach the victim
  • Tap their shoulders and ask them / say – “Hello, are you ok” to test their response;
  • If no response, check if they are moving or breathing. Open their airway to look and listen and check for breathing for 5 to 10 seconds, by performing a head tilt and chin lift;
  • Call or ask someone to call the emergency or ambulance services – 082-922, 084-124, 0861-007-911, 10177 or 112 and tell them you are performing CPR;
  • Perform 30 rapid chest compressions in the middle of the chest, 10cm deep about 120 per minute;
  • Deliver 2 breaths one after the other; 
  • Apply the AED ASAP and follow the prompts to deliver a shock, or carry on with CPR;
  • Continue this process of compressions, breaths, and AED shocks, until the emergency services arrive.   

AED in the workplace and other areas

All workplaces should have AED machines as they may be required at unexpected times. The risk of someone having a heart attack and going into cardiac arrest at work is high and for this reason AED’s should be available at work. In addition to work, they should be available for the public or police or other authorities to persons to use. Places of location and positioning should include the workplace on various levels of public buildings such as gym’s, shopping malls, old age and care facilities, airplanes, trains, schools, universities, etc.    

There should be directional signage drawing attention to the location of the AED, so that when needed they can be easily identified and reached. The first aiders do need to know where the various devices are located. The units will also need to be checked on a regular basis to ensure that they are charged and fit and ready for use. The batteries and power source should be checked as well as the pads to ensure that they have not expired and still have their adhesive properties to ensure good contact when used.   

AEDs and CPR Training

Here at Absolute Health Services, we offer AED training workshops and various first aid courses, including Basic Life Support for Healthcare Providers, CPR for Professionals, and the Health and Safety Officer Course. These courses are designed to build confidence and underscore the importance of quick, effective AED and CPR usage.


Having an AED and knowing how to perform CPR are vital in any environment—be it workplaces, public buildings, gyms, shopping malls, care facilities, schools, universities, and many others. Regular checks should be carried out to ensure these devices are charged and ready for use. Remember, the success of AED and CPR is directly related to the speed of their application.

Although the use of an AED is not required to have formal training, it is highly recommended. This training increases the confidence of rescuers and ensures that correct techniques are used, resulting in the best possible outcome for the victim.

First Aid Kit Checklist

Ensure that you always have a correctly stocked First Aid Box in your workplace as per the Regulation 7.

Download our free checklist to keep on hand so that your are to respond to emergencies effectively.