How do you use an AED on someone?

You’re at home and you find a loved one or friend unresponsive. Do you know how to respond? Do you have the necessary equipment nearby to act? Would you feel capable?

For many Americans, the answer to both of those questions is no.

In fact, more than 70% of Americans admit that they don’t know or have forgotten how to administer CPR. And a little less than a quarter have an Automated External Defibrillator (the device that delivers a needed shock to a victim’s heart) in their workplace.

RELATED: What is an AED?

If you don’t know how to use an AED or even when it’s the right time to act, this post is for you.

Check out our step-by-step explanations below to learn how and when to use an AED.  

What Is an AED?

Before we begin, we need to start with a very basic definition — what is an AED?

An Automated External Defibrillator is a device that analyzes the heart and if it detects a problem may deliver a shock to restart the heart’s normal rhythm. An AED is able to analyze the heart thanks to a built-in computer that reads the victim’s heart rhythm, determining if the shock is needed to restart the heart.

If a shock is needed, it walks the user through the process step-by-step and reanalyzes the heart after a shock to check vitals. Some AEDs can even coach hands-only CPR.

When to Use an AED

AED’s are designed to be used in response to a victim of Sudden Cardiac Arrest — a medical event where the heart stops beating.

More than 350,000 cardiac arrests occur annually and the use of an AED could be the difference between life and death. For every minute that goes by without defibrillation, a victim loses a 10% chance of survival. With EMS response times often greater than 9mins, bystander response is critical.

When you find a victim unresponsive and not breathing, that is the time to call 911, begin CPR and locate a nearby AED to help revive them while awaiting paramedics.

An AED can be used on people of all ages, including infants and the elderly.

How to Use an AED

People are often intimated by AEDs. But thanks to a built-in caching system, they are very easy to use.

Most come with step-by-step voice instructions that also provide CPR coaching. Below are the steps to take when responding to a Sudden Cardiac Arrest event:

1. Assess the Situation

When you find someone unresponsive, begin by assessing the scene.

Check to confirm the person is truly unresponsive by calling the person’s name and asking if they can hear you. In some cases, tap or shake them gently.

If they remain unresponsive, check to see if they are still breathing. Check for a pulse to determine if their heart has stopped breathing or is beating irregularly.

In situations where the person is unresponsive, not breathing, and their heart has stopped, it’s time to begin life-saving measures.

If a victim is lying in any amount of water or is wet, there is a risk of the electrical current harming bystanders. Move the victim to a dry location, quickly dry their skin, and remove wet clothing before using the AED.

You also should never use an AED around combustible materials like flowing oxygen.

2. Call 911

Immediately call 911 and begin hands-only CPR by applying hard and fast chest compressions to the beat of 100-120 beats per minute. The American Heart Association promotes the use of songs such as “Stayin’ Alive” by the Bee Gees, “Hips Don’t Lie” by Shakira” or “Walk the Line” by Johnny Cash which utilize this beat.

3. Place AED Pads and Press Shock if Prompted

Retrieve the AED and turn it on. It will immediately begin to provide step-by-step instructions.

Expose the person’s chest by pulling back, removing, or cutting clothing, and apply the pads as directed.

These will be placed on the right portion of the chest, below the victim’s collar bone, and on the lower-left portion of the left side of the chest. The AED also has a visual for proper placement.

Allow the AED to analyze the victim to determine if a shock is needed. If instructed, clear the area to ensure no one is touching the patient and yell “clear”.  

Push the shock button as instructed. The AED will begin to reanalyze the victim’s heart to determine if another shock is needed.

Resume CPR when instructed until EMS arrives.

For more information on this life-saving measure, please visit, a site provided by Parent Heart Watch that is filled with vital resources.

Can you use an AED on someone who has a pacemaker?

Yes, an AED can be used on someone who has a pacemaker, but caution must be taken not to place it over the device. When looking at the patient, you will notice a round disc shape under their skin near the left collarbone. Place the pads at least one inch away from the pacemaker — further if possible.

Who Should Have an AED on Hand?


While more and more public places are receiving AEDs, homes continue to be a place of the greatest risk. In fact, 68.5 percent of all out-of-hospital cardiac arrests occur at or around a home or residence. A home AED could potentially save the life of a loved one.

It’s especially helpful to have a defibrillator in your home if you or someone else in your family is at high risk of experiencing cardiac arrest or is in generally poor health.

Purchase an AED Today

Now that you know the risks for SCA and how to respond, it’s time to think about purchasing one for your home. If you are considering an AED for your home, check our line of safety products featuring AEDs that were designed for the home.

Check out our full line of products here

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