How to Maintain Your Defibrillator

Each year in the UK, around 30,000 people suffer from cardiac arrest. The chances of survival from this condition hugely decrease with each minute that passes without urgent medical attention - with the use of a defibrillator imperative to restart the heart’s rhythm and blood flow around the body. So how do you maintain a defibrillator, to ensure that it is ready to save a life?

What are the requirements for maintaining a defibrillator?

Anyone can own an AED, but it is encouraged to register the kit once owned. If the AED is for use in a workplace, it will fall under the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998, meaning it must comply with the following requirements:

  • Regular maintenance and calibration of the kit
  • Regular stock check of supplies

Training of staff for the use of the AED is not required, as the device is designed to be used without prior instruction, however, it is encouraged that staff undergoes familiarisation with the defibrillator kit, to minimise the time it takes to deliver a shock if they find a victim. This is the same for all first aid kits in the workplace.

How long do defibrillators last?

The longevity of your AED will depend on the way that it is handled. Typical shelf life will be between 10-15 years, but this will vary due to level of usage, and where it's stored. When kept in a storage cabinet or office, your defibrillator is much more likely to last for longer than if exposed to multiple uses, or the weather, if stored outside.

Do defibrillators need servicing?

AEDs perform daily self-checks and display warnings if attention is needed - meaning they rarely need maintenance or servicing. They’re easy to store and most models currently on the market have a life expectancy of at least 10 years. As batteries and pads have shorter shelf lives, it can be vital to have your defibrillator serviced yearly, and to keep a note of their expiration dates. It can be the difference between life and death - with many trained engineers available.

How can you test a defibrillator?

The functions of a defibrillator are to analyse the heart’s rhythm, and to deliver necessary electrical impulses to restart an individual's circulation. Most AEDs will be set to do daily, weekly or monthly self-checks, but it’s highly important to ensure you’re monitoring your AED regularly too.

A simple inspection is all that is required - this includes checking the readiness indicator located on the front of the device, ensuring the battery and electrode pad expiration dates aren’t expired and examining for any frayed wires. However, it is recommended that you have your AED professionally checked yearly - these stringent tests will assess its ability to analyse varying heart rhythms and deliver the correct action.

It’s important to keep a log of routine check ups and any maintenance, to ensure the defibrillator kit is usable and ready for if it is needed. 

How often do I need to check my AED?

If your AED is in a high-pressure area, with a higher number of people that may need to use it, try to check the defibrillator daily. If not, weekly checks are adequate, using the advice stated above as a routine inspection. Checking your defibrillator as often as possible is ideal, but it’s vital to have it serviced by a professional at least once a year. The older an AED is, the more likely device failure becomes - making professional inspection essential to recognise any faults that the device cannot pick up itself. 

How do I store my AED?

Some situations require AEDs to be locked from public use - this will likely be protection from vandalism, the weather, or general curiosity which could be extremely harmful. We stock a range of wall mounts and cases, which include locked and open options. Our carry cases are a useful mobile option for those who need to take AEDs on the move with them.

How long do AED pads last?

Unfortunately, AED pads have a shelf life. Depending on the quality of the product you buy, they can last between two to four years. The pads use a water-based electrolyte gel to stick to the chest of a victim and conduct electricity, however, it dries out over time as the chemicals break down. This will lead to a lack of adhesion and unreliable conductivity when using the defibrillator. For this reason, it’s essential to regularly check the shelf life of pads attached to the defibrillator, as well as any backup pads - and dispose of any used pads.

How should you dispose of expired AED pads?

Leading on from the previous point, disposing safely of pads is an important last step of using an AED. 

  1. After gently removing the pads from the patient’s chest, clean any remaining gel from the skin with an alcohol wipe. 
  2. If blood or any other bodily fluid is present, place the pads in a biohazard bag and ensure to dispose them into a biohazard bin.

(If this is unavailable, visit here to find your closest option for disposal)

  1. Cut electrode wire to prevent reuse

Any pads without blood or other materials may be disposed of in a normal bin.

How much will replacement AED pads cost?

Replacing or maintaining suitable AED pads is vital - the adhesive gel used in the pads is essential to the defibrillation process, so usable versions must be available at all times. At First Aid Warehouse, we stock a range of replacement pads to choose from:

If you, your school or workplace wish to undergo defibrillation training, we stock non-functional pads to be used for instructional purposes. Our packages include sets of pads, and a connector wire assembly in a sealed pouch - everything you need to increase your proficiency with the kit.

How long do AED batteries last?

Always refer to your user manual, but expiration dates should be on the back of AED batteries. The shelf life is similar to that of electrode pads - around two to five years, depending on the quality of product that you purchase.

It will tend to have three dates printed on it: a manufactured date, an install-by date, and an expiration date. Some batteries can withstand multiple AED uses, but you may find some that only last one rescue. We recommend storing replacement options in case of this happening.

How much will an AED battery replacement cost?

At First Aid Warehouse, we offer a choice of 3 options for replacement batteries.

Depending on your budget, you can select according to various expiration lengths:

How should you dispose of AED batteries?

As with AED pads, you should always look to responsibly dispose of batteries used by the defibrillator kit. They’re considered hazardous waste material (as they contain lithium-sulfur dioxide) - incorrect battery disposal can cause fires, as well as leaking chemicals into soil and eventually surface water, causing pollution. 

Luckily, it’s simple to do so: visit a collection bin and recycle as you would with a normal battery. You’ll find them in most supermarkets and shops that sell batteries, as well as some schools and libraries.

Periodically maintaining your AED is an invaluable process, to keep the kit in working order and ready to be called upon. If you have any further questions on the maintenance of your defibrillator, contact us. To see our full range of AEDs and replacement equipment, click here.

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