What is an AED?


An AED, also known as an automated external defibrillator, is a life-saving medical device that can be used when performing CPR on a cardiac arrest victim. This small advanced electrical device can quickly analyze the victim’s heart rhythm and deliver an electric shock if needed to help restore the heart’s normal rhythm.

The latest AED machines come with specialized electrical pads and a pre-programmed computer link which makes them easy to use. Unlike the first-generation bulky machines, the newer AEDs are compact, portable, and light. The newer AEDs are available in most public places and the work place; they are easy to use when facing a victim with a sudden death emergency. An AED machine can guide the rescuer to provide:

  1. CPR
  2. An electrical shock to the victim to restore the heart rhythm

The history of the AED

AEDs have been around for at least 5 decades. They were first only used in hospitals to restore heart rhythm in patients who arrested from abnormal heart rhythms like ventricular tachycardia or ventricular fibrillation. The first machines were large, cumbersome, and difficult to use. However, by the 80s and 90s, technology had improved significantly which allowed smaller AEDs to be implanted in patients. However, the second generation of AEDs were also quite large and could only be implanted in adults. By the late 90s, the third generation of AEDs were compact, light, and small; and could be implanted in both adults and children with ease.

The modern AED

The modern AED consist of 4 key parts that include the following:

  • The user interface (processor) guides the user on how to attach the pads to the victim and provide CPR. it also delivers an electrical shock when needed and records all the details
  • Long-life battery that operates the processor, provides the electrical shock when needed, and performs self-checks
  • The capacitor is the electrical component that stores and releases the energy from the battery -during the process of shock delivery
  • The wired electrode pads attach to the skin of the victim and can not only detect the heart rhythm but also deliver the shock as needed. 

Who makes AEDs

Several US companies manufacture AEDs and they all have the same basic functionalities. Some of them include the following:

  1. Cardiac Science manufacturers a small compact AED that can manage life-threatening arrhythmias outside the hospital.
  2. Defibtech is another leading manufacturer of AEDs; these AEDs have both vocal and visual prompts to help manage sudden death outside hospitals.
  3. Heartsine has been making AEDs for more than 2 decades. EMS and first responders in many US states use Heartsine AEDs.
  4. Philips Healthcare AEDs have been around for at least 25 years and are ideal for use in children because of the small pads. These AEDs come with all the necessary instructions to help save a life.
  5. Zoll has been making AEDs for many years. It has an excellent reputation with many solid medical products. In most medical institutions, airplanes, train stations, and many public places you are likely to find a Zoll AED.
  6. Physio-Control AED, now run by Stryker, makes AEDs. Both EMS and first responders carry Physio-Control AEDs because of the ease of use.

Why you should have an AED in the workplace

  1. Even though there is no national or federal law that requires workplaces to have an AED, most states have safety laws that mandate AED/CPR tools in the workplace. In general, the AED availability depends on the type of public building and workplace. Some states even require medical oversight and have training requirements when an AED is in the workplace.
  2. It should be part of your 911 emergency activation plan
  3. Having an AED in the workplace will enable you to address or respond to sudden death cases
  4. Heart disease does not discriminate against age, gender, or ethnic background. A heart attack can occur anywhere at any time, and you only have a few precious minutes to save a life
  5. Most modern AEDs are portable. Light and come with visual and audio instructions which guide the use during the resuscitation process. Almost everyone can use an AED safely, provided they have obtained training.
  6. AEDs are a good investment as they help ensure the wellness and health of not only your employees but also your customers

Final Point

An AED should be available in all workplaces and public places. Even if the individual has no training in CPR or the use of an AED, the machine can guide you through the process of saving a life. It is like an insurance policy against sudden death.


Siam B
I am an operating room nurse in Canada. Have a prior degree in marketing from Ecole Superieur de Commerce de Certificate in Marketing, Paris, France. Most of my writing is health based.