There is no doubt that ready access to a defibrillator can save lives in the case of sudden cardiac arrest.
The research is clear.
Unfortunately, research also shows about 75 per cent of sudden cardiac arrests happen away from a hospital, with a survival rate of just 6 per cent.
Furthermore, the time taken for an ambulance to reach a patient through traffic sometimes means help may arrive too late.
However, even an untrained passerby with access to an AED might have helped prevent your death.
Yet there is scant distribution of defibrillators either at workplaces or in public spaces.
And unfortunately, even when a defibrillator is present, there have been fatalities from malfunctioning or poorly deployed devices.
US research has linked 1150 deaths to AED failures over 15 years.
New research by a leading occupational health and safety expert shows more lives can be saved after sudden cardiac arrest if fully-monitored systems of Automated External Defibrillators are deployed to public areas and workplaces, rather than stand-alone defibrillators.
In a case study of Sydney Trains, the study found fourteen lives were saved over three years thanks to a fully-monitored AED system for which more than 2000 employees were trained in CPR and use of the defibrillators.
In addition, the readiness of the equipment was continuously and remotely monitored.
Some of the 14 rescued might not have survived however, if stand-alone defibrillators had been fitted instead, as research suggests up to one in five could fail at the crucial moment through inadequate maintenance and monitoring.
The paper, by Sydney-based researcher Dr Sue Craig, is called ‘Creating a Culture of Heart Safety in Public Facilities’, and will be published in the July edition of the Journal of Health, Safety and Environment.
Dr Craig interviewed survivors of sudden cardiac arrest as well as staff from all levels of Sydney Trains, reviewed international research and analysed the results of remote surveillance.
Key factors in the successful rescues were that the AED formed part of an integrated system that ensured it was located in a highly visible position, ready when needed with a fully-charged battery, and that there were sufficient numbers of trained employees on hand to use it. The report recommends each AED unit be supported by up to ten CPR-trained employees.
The findings bolster calls by the Cardiac Arrest Survival Foundation and the AED Deployment Registry for the registration and regulation of the deployment of defibrillators to public places and workplaces.
Stand-alone AEDs place an unnecessary burden on Australian managers, the report found, and can create confusion over who is responsible for the equipment.
The research recommends organisations move instead to a ‘service-based’ approach to heart safety, in order to clearly define who has responsibility for monitoring and maintaining AEDs and the training of operators.
As well as saving lives, the study suggests there are long-term cost savings to be achieved through fully-monitored AED systems.
Indirect costs of failing to mitigate public risk are estimated at 8 to 36 times the direct costs such as loss of key staff, disruption to business, workers compensation and legal liability.