External defibrillator (AED) in a library

The Heart Health campaign ran from February 2019 to December 2019. This campaign’s pages are no longer actively maintained.

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When the heart suddenly stops, an automated external defibrillator (AED) calculates whether an electric shock through the chest is needed to restore a heartbeat.

This small portable device—found on the wall of many public places—airports, stadiums, shopping centers—where large numbers of people gather—calculates whether defibrillation is needed. The AED’s digital voice cues the rescuer to press a shock button that stuns the heart into resuming a regular beat. Every AED comes with simple instructions for use in emergencies.

When individuals know CPR and understand the role that AEDs play to restart a stopped heart, many lives can be saved.

Locate AEDs—Before You Need One

Take a moment. Look around. Locate the nearest AEDs as you go about your days. They are FDA-regulated medical devices that have been tested for safety and reliability. At work, where you shop, where you exercise, where you socialize—AEDs are virtually everywhere.

Because time is of the essence when cardiac arrest occurs, the nearby availability of a defibrillator to “shock” the heart into beating at its natural rhythm can make all the difference. Survival chances decrease minute by minute when the heart stops beating.

These computerized devices come complete with batteries (which should be routinely replaced) and electrode pads.

Learn to Use an AED

Have you called 9-1-1? That’s always the first step. Don’t hang up. Immediately begin to apply CPR. Look around or send someone to locate the nearest AED. It will instruct you every step of the way. The two electrodes (small pads) placed on the patient communicate with sensors. If defibrillation is needed, a voice prompt will announce that a shock is going to be delivered.