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Assessing Community Readiness for Public Access AED Program

Careful planning needed

Careful Planning Required

An AED program consists of much more than buying an AED and making it accessible. A good program has widespread support, both internal (within your club, school, organization or business), and external (in the lay, medical and EMS communities) and is based on sound principles and careful planning.

Determining Need

One of the first steps is to determine whether your facility needs the protection an AED offers.

Generally, the need for an AED program is determined by:

  • Number of people: How many people use your facility, whether it be a school, athletic facility (baseball diamond, soccer field, hockey rink etc.), or business (shopping mall, etc.)?

  • Distance from EMS: How long would it take for emergency medical services to reach your facility in the event of a cardiac emergency? How large, complex, or security-intensive is your facility (i.e. how long will it take EMS to reach the victim once they are on your property)?

Specifically, you should find out the answers to the following questions:

  • Does your area have enhanced 911 coverage allowing emergency dispatchers to locate cell phone callers (according to the National Emergency Number Association (NENA), wireless callers make roughly one-third of all 911 calls)?

  • Are 911 dispatchers trained to give instructions on CPR and AED use over the phone?

  • Approximately how many adults and students in the local community have had CPR training?

  • What is the survival rate for SCA in your community?

  • Does your community have AEDs and, if so, where are they located? (You can usually obtain this information from the local fire department or EMS provider).

  • Are responders trained to deliver the first shock within 60 seconds of their arrival?

  • Are your community's first-responder vehicles (ambulances, police cars, fire department vehicles) equipped with AEDs? Who else might be a good candidate to receive an AED? What is their average response time? Does it exceed five minutes for more than 10% of responses?

  • Are there "high traffic" areas where people gather? Are there locations that could be considered high risk or difficult to access?

  • How much training has the local Emergency Medical Services (EMS) provider and other emergency response personnel (Emergency Medical Technician, Paramedics) received in the use of AEDs?

  • Do emergency personnel provide Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS)?

Once you understand the current readiness of your community, you can develop the parameters of your defibrillation program. Based on the "optimal" response-time goal of three to five minutes or less, you can then determine the number of AEDs that you need and where they should be placed.