How to Use an AED

“CLEAR!” “SHOCKING!” If you watch any of those hospital drama television shows, you’ve heard these words yelled many times. These words are associated with the use of an AED, or Automatic External Defibrillator. An AED is a lifesaving device used when an individual experiences sudden cardiac arrest. You’ve seen it in movies and on TV; the doctors or nurses take those hand-held paddles and rub them together before touching them to the chest of a person who is not conscious and not breathing. You then see a violent jolt of the person’s body. This is the device delivering an electric shock to help a person’s heart return to a normal rhythm. Using an AED is currently the only way to restore a regular heart rhythm to a person in cardiac arrest.

How to Use an AED


Before using an AED on an individual who is not breathing, call 911 or instruct someone to call 911. Attempt CPR first to revive the person and then utilize the AED if CPR is not successful.

1. Locate AED and turn it on. The AED will give visual instructions and verbal commands to assist you while using it.

2. Open the person’s shirt to expose their chest. The individual should be laying down flat on their back. If the person is wet, their chest should be wiped dry or the patches will not adhere to their skin.

3. Locate the provided pads and open the sealed package.

4. Connect the pads to the AED.

5. Turn on the AED and check the working status. Some AEDs have an indicator to advise if the AED is in working order.

6. Attach the provided pads to the person’s chest in the proper locations. The pads will have visual instructions on where to place the pads. One pad will be placed on the right side of the person’s upper chest, while the other will be placed on the left side of the person’s middle to lower chest area below the ribs.

7. Instruct everyone around the person to stand clear. CPR should stop, and no one should be touching the patient.

Be careful! If you come into physical contact with a person who is being shocked by an AED, you could be shocked.

8. Allow the AED to analyze the person’s heart rhythm.

9. The AED will then advise if you should shock the patient. If the AED recommends shocking, once again make sure that no one, including you, is touching the individual and then press the “Shock” button.

An AED can be used on an adult or a non-breathing child 8 years of age or older who weighs at least 55 pounds.

10. After a shock is administered, the AED will then advise to continue CPR. Resume CPR for 2 minutes and continue to follow the AED’s verbal instructions. If you notice the person showing signs of life, stop CPR and monitor breathing.

Things to Know


  • There are numerous models of AED’s. Although they all look different, they function the same. Do not panic if you come across a different AED than the one you trained on or are familiar with. Follow the same procedures and listen to the commands or follow the instructions.

Learning both how to perform CPR and how to use an AED can help save lives. Please read about Hands-Only CPR to learn the process of CPR.

This post is meant for educational purposes only. It is not intended to replace medical advice from your physician, doctor, or health care professional. Please read our terms of use for more information.


Sources: What is AED? , AED Steps, Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs)
Photo Credit: Sasha Staton, Pixabay

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Sasha Staton

Sasha is a new mother to her baby boy and is loving motherhood! Sasha has dedicated her career to protecting the public and has served in almost every realm of public safety. Sasha is the Spokesperson for a Fire Department and is committed to teaching both children and adults about fire safety and prevention. Before diving into the fire service, she was a triple certified Law Enforcement Officer, Emergency Medical Technician, and Ocean Rescue Lifeguard. Sasha received her undergraduate degree in Family, Youth, and Community Science from the University of Florida and also holds a Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice. In her free time, Sasha loves traveling with her family, doing DIY projects, and all water activities, especially kayaking with her two dogs on board.

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