You’ve probably seen automated external defibrillators (AEDs) utilized in dramatic movie and television scenes where lives are saved. But these action-packed scenes rarely depict accurate emergency cardiac situations. AEDs are important tools that everyone should know how to use when providing critical emergency care. The following information can prove life-saving when dealing with someone suffering cardiac arrest and offers specific details on the proper use of AEDs. You can also take a CPR course to learn how to use one properly.

What is an AED?

An automated external defibrillator (AED) is available in most public places and can analyze someone’s heart rhythm in the event their heart is weakened or stops. This device delivers an electric shock (called defibrillation) to the victim’s heart and works to re-establish the heart’s basic rhythm.

When Should an AED Be Used?

CPR is typically not enough to restart a heart on its own, and that’s where an AED can be most effective. When someone suffers cardiac arrest, every minute counts. AEDs must be quickly obtained and properly handled to give the person the best chance at survival.

How Do You Use an AED?

The Heart and Stroke Foundation states that nearly 40,000 Canadians suffer sudden cardiac arrest annually. The following is a quick guide for using an AED in a critical cardiac event.


  • Ensure the collapsed person is responsive and call 911.
  • Locate the AED, turn it on and follow the visual and/or audio prompts.
  • Open the person’s shirt and wipe his or her bare chest dry. If the person is wearing any medication patches, you should use a gloved (if possible) hand to remove the patches before wiping the person’s chest.
  • Attach the AED pads and plug in the connector (if necessary).
  • Make sure no one, including you, is touching the person. Tell everyone to “stand clear.”
  • Push the “analyze” button (if necessary) and allow the AED to analyze the person’s heart rhythm.
  • If the AED recommends that you deliver a shock to the person, make sure that no one, including you, is touching the person – and tell everyone to “stand clear.” Once clear, press the “shock” button.
  • Begin CPR after delivering the shock. Or if no shock is advised, begin CPR. Perform 2 minutes (about 5 cycles) of CPR and continue to follow the AED prompts. If you notice obvious signs of life, discontinue CPR and monitor breathing for any changes in condition.


Where Do I Find An AED?

AEDs can be life-saving devices. It is, however, important to note that even after AED training, remembering the steps to use an AED the right way can be difficult. This is especially true in high-adrenaline emergency situations. Be sure to renew your CPR license every other year to keep up to date on the latest in both CPR and AED training.