A Guide to Buying a Defibrillator

The crucial use of CPR and a defibrillator to save footballer Christian Eriksen’s life, this summer in the EURO 2020 Championships, was a reminder that anyone can be in need of urgent care – regardless of how fit and healthy they may seem. But what exactly does a defibrillator do, and how can you get one?

What is an AED Defibrillator? 

AED stands for automated external defibrillator, a life-saving piece of kit that can analyse the heart’s rhythm and deliver an electric shock when needed. It is used when an individual suffers a cardiac arrest. Electrode pads adhere to the victim's chest, and aim to restore a regular heartbeat and stable condition. 

Why is a defibrillator important?

Heart problems can affect anyone at any time, which is why it is vital to have a defibrillator close by. When someone is in cardiac arrest and has collapsed, their chances of survival significantly reduce each minute it takes to reach them and deliver a shock. Defibrillators are specifically designed for this moment - the unique kit is the essential tool to increase the rate of survival of victims. 

What defibrillator should I buy - Semi vs Automatic? 

When choosing a defibrillator, it’s important to consider the environment and people you will be providing it for. This is because you may need to decide between purchasing an automatic or semi-automatic defibrillator. 

With the prices often the same, the main difference between the two lies in the need for the user to press a button with the semi-automatic, whereas the automatic defibrillator is programmed to judge the rhythm of the victim’s heart, and deliver the shock without the user.

If the user is treating someone close to them or is in a state of shock, they may misuse the kit. In this situation, having an automatic defibrillator would be ideal. However, when using one of these it is important to ensure that no one is in touching distance from the victim.

Get a Free First Aid Kit
A Fully Automatic Defibrillator Complete with Carry Case. Suitable for medical and non-medical administrators.Smarty Saver F2F Defibrillator, Fully Automatic Complete with Carry Case
Get a Free First Aid Kit
The basic model of the Smarty Saver Series line, very affordable and easy to use. Reliable and durable (1 meter drop test - dustproof and waterproof resistance IP rate 56) capable of tackling challenges in various severe environments.Smarty Saver F2F Semi-Automatic Defibrillator
Lifeline Fully Automatic Defibrillator. This Defibrillator comes complete with battery and one set of Adult pads. This unit is robust and compact with an IP rating of IP54..

Who needs a defibrillator?

Cardiac arrests can arise at any age, with any level of physical health. The essential piece of kit has been installed more frequently to support towns and villages, but what about work and schools?

Well, there isn’t currently a legal requirement for a workplace to provide a defibrillator, but it is being encouraged more and more. Christian Eriksen’s incident in the summer caused a huge rise in awareness and sales of defibrillators, and if someone in your workplace has suffered from heart issues in the past, it is advisable to stock a kit.

As for defibrillators in schools, pressure has been put on the government to ensure that they are placed across the country in every school. Charities like The Oliver King Foundation have helped to distribute thousands of units, and raise awareness of how necessary defibrillators are.

Packed environments like schools, and sports facilities, are the perfect place to stock defibrillators, to provide cover for a large number of people. This could also include care homes, charities, shopping centres, construction sites and transport hubs like train stations.

Do I need a different defibrillator for treating adults and children?

Adults and children can both safely receive treatment from the same defibrillator - the main recommendation when dealing with a child is to use paediatric electrode pads, as opposed to the normal-sized variation. This will minimise the force of shock delivered to the patient, providing a more controlled treatment. 

There is limited research around the use of an AED on babies under the age of 1, but it is better to use one than not

Can anyone buy a defibrillator?

By law, anyone can own a defibrillator, but important criteria for safely managing the kit must be hit. So if you’re looking to buy one for yourself or your work team, family or school, here are the steps you must complete through your possession:

  1. You must have a prescription from a physician for your AED
  2. You’ve registered your AED through your county or jurisdiction
  3. Ensuring medical oversight and continued maintenance of the kit

For the prescription, no pre-existing health conditions are needed. It is more about ensuring that the kit is correctly stored and labelled. 

Any registered physician should be able to aid you in obtaining the defibrillator you want, and can also help with ongoing quality control measures and medical direction of the AED.

 The physician will want to keep a record of the purchase, and the AED must be registered, even if you’re buying it for a business or school.

How much does a defibrillator cost?

The kit can be costly, but having its life-saving benefits on hand is invaluable. At First Aid Warehouse, our semi-automatic defibrillators begin at £775, while our cheapest fully automatic kit costs £848. You will find more expensive models with higher battery capacity, leading them to be able to deliver more electric shocks. They are more likely to hold additional features like full-colour video screens to provide visual guidance - but every AED will come with an instruction manual. For larger institutions, businesses and schools, higher priced AED’s may be more suitable and a worthy investment to last longer, and be more reliable for a higher volume of usage.

How much does a defibrillator cost to maintain?

Most defibrillators will self-test on a daily, weekly or monthly basis, so any issues with the kit, such as low battery or pads not being properly connected, will be shown with an audible alert or flashing light. 

However, pads and batteries for defibrillators have shelf lives. This will depend on the make and model of the defibrillator - the electrode pads used contain an adhesive gel which over time begins to dry out, as the chemicals used break down. The longer pads are stored, the lower their adhesion and conductivity will be.

This is a major problem, especially during CPR: if the pads do not adhere to the skin properly, incorrect heart rhythm readings during the analysis stage may occur. Regularly ensuring that pads are in date could save a life.

Read our Defibrillator Maintenance Guide to find out more about upkeep.

What is IP rating?

IP ratings are a two-digit value representing the kit’s tolerance to solid objects, dust and moisture. The first digit will be between 0-6, specifying the level of protection from damage from the user itself, accidental collision with solid objects, or potentially harmful particles like dirt or dust. 

The second digit will range from 0-9, indicating the kit’s resilience to moisture, at varying degrees of immersion and intensity. 

Kits with lower digits, such as 23, would be suited more towards stable working environments like offices or shops, where they won’t be subjected to as many potentially damaging elements.

What is ECG?

ECG is a specialised feature integrated into most AEDs - standing for electrocardiogram. It collects data about the victim’s heart rhythm. The data can be downloaded in a number of ways, via USB cable, Wi-Fi or a Data Card. While not immediately beneficial for the victim, the ECG feature allows healthcare professionals to provide future care once treatment is complete, and can help to prevent further heart problems.

How are defibrillators stored?

Many AED defibrillators are portable, and often weigh under 5lbs (2.2kg), making them easily movable, while being compact enough to store wherever necessary. However, some public AED’s may be locked and stored in a fixed place. In this circumstance, it is locked to protect the kit from theft, vandalism, the weather and possible accidents that could be caused by misuse. Maintaining the longevity and performance of the kit is vital, which makes locking AED’s a preferable option when they’re in public areas. The code for the located AED will be provided by the emergency operator over the phone. 

Do I need defibrillator training?

In depth training for the use of AED’s is not currently part of either the First Aid at Work or Emergency First Aid courses. However, it is highly advised that at the least rudimentary instructions are shown to employees in workplaces and schools, to increase confidence if the defibrillator is called on. Each piece of kit will contain an instruction manual, providing clear steps on how to safely and effectively use it. We also offer defibrillator packages which will allow users to get hands-on experience of using an AED device. 

What advice comes with the defibrillator? 

You will always find a comprehensive instruction manual with a defibrillator, providing clear instructions in written and pictorial form. As well as this, spoken guidance is a useful feature of AED’s, especially for inexperienced/first time users. This will instruct you all necessary steps from attaching the electrode pads to delivering the required shocks (or allowing the AED to do so, if it’s an automatic model). 

Some AED’s will also provide full-colour video screens, which provide clear visual step-by-step guides, including CPR coaching. This could be a regulated metronome, to allow the user to time their compressions, and some models even include verbal feedback on the quality of your technique, depth and location of compression. Again, for inexperienced users, this is perfect to help the rescue process.

Learn more about Defibrillators with our quiz.