How to Use an AED

How to Use an Automated External Defibrillator (AED) for Cardiac Arrest Response

Cardiac arrest is a life-threatening emergency, and the timely use of an Automated External Defibrillator (AED) can significantly increase the chances of survival. This article provides step-by-step guidance on how to use an AED effectively, along with essential information about the role of lay rescuers in providing early defibrillation.

Step 1: Assess the Situation and Call for Help

During a cardiac arrest, time is critical. Assess the victim’s responsiveness and breathing. If they are unresponsive and not breathing normally, immediately call for emergency medical services (EMS) by dialing 911 or instructing someone nearby to do so. Remember to stay calm and provide clear information about the situation.

Step 2: Begin Chest Compressions

You can’t wait for professional emergency responders to arrive before performing high-quality chest compressions on the victim’s bare chest. Place the heel of one hand on the center of the chest, with the other hand on top. Use your body weight to deliver compressions at the American Heart Association recommendation rate of 100 to 120 compressions per minute. Allow the chest to fully recoil between compressions to pump blood to the vital organs effectively.

Step 3: Retrieve and Prepare the AED

Locate the nearest AED and bring it to the victim’s side. When the AED arrives, ensure the area is safe and free from any hazards. Turn on the AED according to the manufacturer’s instructions, which may involve lifting the lid, pressing the power button, or removing the defibrillator pads.

Step 4: Apply the AED Electrode Pads

Remove any medication patches or clothing from the person’s chest to expose their bare skin. Open the AED electrode pads and peel off the backing to reveal the adhesive side. Firmly place one pad on the upper right side of the victim’s chest, just below the collarbone, and the other on the lower left chest, below the armpit. Ensure the electrode pads are correctly positioned using visual guides provided on the electrode pads or packaging. To use an AED, you must know the correct placement, which is made easy with the visual guides, even for those who have had no AED training or AED skills.  

Step 5: Connect the AED Pads to the Device

If they are not already attached, connect the pad cables to the AED. The AED will automatically analyze the patient’s heart rhythm once connected, enabling it to determine if an electrical shock is required. If the heartbeat is not at a normal rhythm, then the AED delivers a shock.

Step 6: Clear the Victim’s Surrounding Area

Ensure no one touches the patient’s body and instruct bystanders to stand clear. Clearing the area allows the AED to analyze the heart rhythm accurately without interference. Stand back and follow the AED’s voice instructions or visual prompts.

Step 7: Follow AED Prompts and Deliver Shocks if Advised

Listen carefully to the AED’s voice instructions or follow the visual prompts displayed on the device. If the AED determines that a shock is needed to treat ventricular fibrillation or another shockable rhythm, press the shock button if using a semi-automatic AED. For fully automatic AEDs, the device will deliver the shock automatically. Please be sure to stand clear during the shock delivery. *Note: In between shock delivery, the AED will prompt you to perform CPR and when to stop CPR.

Step 8: Resume CPR or Follow AED’s Instructions

If the AED does not advise a shock, immediately continue performing CPR, starting with chest compressions. Follow the AED’s voice instructions or visual prompts for the duration and sequence of compressions and rescue breaths. Continue CPR until emergency responders or paramedics arrive. Using an AED correctly is crucial for increasing the chances of survival in cardiac arrest victims. AEDs are designed to be user-friendly, and even lay people can learn the necessary skills through AED certification courses. By promptly initiating CPR, applying AED electrode pads, and following the device’s voice instructions or visual prompts, you can provide early defibrillation and support professional emergency responders in their life-saving efforts. Remember, every minute without CPR and defibrillation decreases the chances of survival. Knowing how to use an AED and having the confidence to act can significantly save lives during cardiac arrest emergencies. For more comprehensive information on AEDs, AED accessories, and AED/CPR training courses, visit   Not sure which AED is best for you? Check out our AED Buyer’s Guide.  

Frequently Asked Questions 

One Response to “How to Use an AED”

February 21, 2024 at 8:31 pm, Dan Grisham,RN said:

I’m glad to see these AED’s in our schools today. As an ER nurse for 25 years, starting in 1980, I’m certain that many patients who failed to survive would still be around or have lived many more years with the AED accessible during that time.
Dan Grisham/ Registered trauma nurse


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *