How to Maintain An AED

Table of Contents:

Proper AED Maintenance

Much like automobiles, AED (automated external defibrillator) maintenance requirements are essential and ongoing. However, unlike cars, most AEDs are rarely used and tend to slip from our everyday awareness. We must keep in mind that a well-kept AED quickly becomes our best friend if a sudden cardiac arrest emergency should arise in our daily lives. However, a poorly kept AED that, because of neglect, fails to provide the needed electric shock in the midst of an SCA rescue effort may quickly become the center of a deadly tragedy.

Related Article: What is an AED?

AED Maintenance Checklist

A maintenance designee should follow (at least) these basic AED maintenance steps to evaluate the AED’s current condition and keep the life saving device in working order:

  1. Visually inspect the general condition of the AED.
    Is the case clean and intact? Are PPE supplies, shaver, and tool for removing/cutting jewelry included? Are there any signs of damage? Is there a status indicator light that indicates maintenance is needed?
  2. Push the start button (or simply open the cover) and confirm activation (automatic audio playing of instructions for use should begin).
    Turn the machine off and make sure the status indicator shows the unit is again ready for use (green light).
  3. Check for any audio alarm or visual service notice being displayed on the unit.
    Alarms may also come in the form of a blinking red light, an “X”, instead of a checkmark, or a screen that is completely blank.
  4. Check batteries and replace past-date batteries.
    Even though the AED batteries may power the machine for a test, past-date batteries should be replaced to be sure they will not run down before the next use or check-up. Find or order new ones and be sure to follow through on the new battery installation. If new batteries are ordered, be sure to include a backup battery to have on hand for future use.
  5. Inspect AED pads.
    AED pads may have passed their expiration date, have been used, or show clear signs (cracking, stressed wiring, etc) that they need to be replaced. Again, replace and/or reorder; a backup set of pads is generally recommended, but definitely necessary for frequent users such as EMT crews.

Further AED Maintenance: Batteries and Adhesive Electrode Pads 

Automated external defibrillators are built to be as foolproof as possible, but should be checked a minimum of every three months, perhaps even daily (by simply observing the status light) depending on the situation. Because they are portable, specialized units, each uses its own AED battery, proprietary to the AED manufacturer. Imagine an SCA rescue effort which fails because the owner has neglected to maintain that AED battery!

Also, AEDs use electrode pads placed on a victim’s chest. AED maintenance requirements include regular checking and/or replacement of these pads according to manufacturer guidelines. As with batteries, used or outdated AED pads that should have been replaced can compromise a rescue. Old or reused pads may fail to deliver the data needed by the AED to detect the absence of a normal heart rhythm; of course the pads also must deliver the defibrillator’s electric shock fully and properly to the victim’s heart when called for by the AED.

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Check-up and Record of Maintenance

A designated individual or office in charge of physical plant maintenance should check the AED(s) regularly, according to a set schedule, following recommended AED manufacturer guidelines and the basic steps above. Each check should be documented, any repair or replacement noted, and records stored should proof of maintenance be needed. Pre-printed AED maintenance record checklists are available to help with this task.

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Additional AED Maintenance Tips

Placement, Mounting, and Case

  • Install proper storage and display with AED signage in a centrally located, easy access defibrillator cabinet. Mount with an electrical outlet in or next to the case for easy charging (some units are designed for continuous charging). Protect from extremes in temperature and weather with as few limitations on access as possible.
  • NOTE: Some AEDs are much more rugged than others, such as the Heartsine Samaritan AEDs. Purchase one of these AEDs accordingly if exposure, frequent transport, and/or rough handling are issues; follow manufacturer guidelines.

Getting Started Once the AED is Installed

  • Inform and train staff regarding the AED.
  • Register the AED with local emergency services if possible; it may save a life if an SCA occurs nearby and the local dispatch can inform a potential first-aider of your machine’s close proximity! In some states, this is required by law.
  • Require AED designee to refer to manufacturer manual for particular details and maintenance procedures.

Practicing Active Maintenance

While many defibrillators perform automatic self tests, intentional regular care of the AED is required to be sure it will perform at its best when deployed:

  • If needed, increase the number of basic check-ups to exceed the manufacturer’s interval (consider weekly, etc.). All manufacturers currently require AEDs to be checked monthly.
  • Use and keep on file a maintenance checklist; create a list or use the manufacturer’s list if provided. generic pre-printed lists are also available.
  • Note if your unit carries a computer data card and check that it is present and properly loaded.
  • Record, restore, refresh after any use.
    • Record all details of a use.
    • Download and distribute any event record re: cardiac emergency from the machine data card as required.
    • Restore the battery to full charge if the battery is rechargeable. Do a checkup to confirm the machine is functioning properly and in ready mode.
    • Clean machine and replace pads and secondary supplies as necessary.
    • To assure continual readiness, buy back-up batteries and pads; check for proper battery installation and recharge the backup battery as needed.

3rd Party AED Maintenance Systems

Consider 3rd party maintenance assistance via a system such as ARCH. Research and development continue to make rich internet applications available for AED locating and recording of use events as well as regular maintenance. Whether you have an office AED that is likely to slip from awareness or an often-used EMS unit, help is available to make sure that routine inspections occur and are documented; this will ensure ongoing compliance with legal requirements.

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AED Maintenance Requirements Vary

When a machine is purchased, it should be chosen carefully to fit the needs of the intended users, whether individual or group. Maintenance requirements become more demanding and costs of care higher for more sophisticated machines. Choosing the machine that fits the intended user promises ease of use and prevents unnecessary effort and cost for AED maintenance. Before buying, the manufacturer’s guidelines for various units should be studied and compared.

Related Article: AED Cost

Legal Considerations

SCA is a unique, urgent life-or-death emergency. Since an AED is the primary key to a rescue in cases of SCA, the importance of keeping every machine functioning properly and ready to perform its life-saving role cannot be overstated. It is a more than adequate technological solution to the challenge of providing rapid defibrillation, but left uncared for this amazing technology becomes useless. Realizing this, the importance of AED maintenance becomes perfectly clear.

Whether first buying an automated external defibrillator or tending to its current maintenance, there are a number of issues to be aware of:

  • legal obligation to own and maintain
  • required prescription
  • AED maintenance requirements
  • typical maker’s guidelines, including long-term cost to own (battery and pad replacement cost).

Legal Obligation to Own and Maintain

An individual, group, or business may find it desirable or necessary to obtain an AED. An AED may be purchased simply for personal health reasons, or one or more may be required for a business, school, church, or other community setting.

Federal Requirements

Basic requirements for purchase and ownership of an AED start at the federal level with FDA classification of AEDs as a “class three medical device.” New AED equipment must now be FDA-approved and come with a prescription (often provided via the seller). Around the year 2000, federal law was enacted to place AEDs in federal buildings, establish “Good Samaritan Laws,” and encourage development of individual requirements by the various states. These include rules for placement, maintenance, training for use, and professional oversight of AED programs.

State Requirements

Additional State Laws regarding AED equipment vary, and should be considered when making a purchase. We recommend visiting the link above to better understand AED laws and legislation in your state.

Exception for Personal Ownership/Use

A lay individual may be buying just one personal-use AED unit that is relatively simple. The Philips Heartstart Onsite M5066A carries FDA approval; it is available for “Over the Counter” purchase, not even requiring a prescription. In this case, while maintenance is important to be sure the AED is always available and reliable, there should be no legal issues surrounding use purely by its owner. Should the AED be used on another person, liability of the owner if the machine failed may come into play, especially if there has been a lack of AED maintenance.

Liability for Public Use AEDs

AEDs actually come in various forms, designed for various users. While the simplest AED, mentioned above, may not require a prescription or trigger liability to its owner, more sophisticated AED machines are recommended for public and professional use. Because they are to be kept for emergency use by the public and professionals, they should have the newly instituted FDA approval, and must be dispensed by prescription. Also, since they are intended for use by or for the public in a variety of settings, AED maintenance is crucial with these machines due to liability issues. While strong Good Samaritan Laws exist in all states, failure to properly maintain an AED may make the responsible party vulnerable in a lawsuit.

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