It’s CPR & AED Awareness Week: 5 Ways to Get Involved


CPR & AED Awareness Week

Each year, around 10,000 sudden cardiac arrests (SCA) happen at work. This is a staggering number, representing one out of every twenty cases of sudden cardiac arrest. When an SCA occurs, the victims’ chances of survival hinge almost entirely on a bystander’s ability to perform CPR and use an AED. In fact, while the average survival rate for SCA victims is about 7%, early defibrillation significantly increases their chance of survival to 38 percent.

However, workforces are not always properly trained in early intervention for SCA victims. Even though the average worker spends about forty hours a week in the workplace, 55% of employees are unable to receive comprehensive CPR and AED training from their employer. The widespread ambivalence about these programs has an unfortunate consequence — only 50% of employees can locate an AED within their workplace.

Out-of-hospital SCA chain of survival

If we closed this gap and spread awareness, we can prevent a dire situation. That’s why health advocates celebrate National CPR and AED Awareness Week during the first week of June. Use this week to encourage your workplace and other public institutions to take action and ensure everyone has the confidence required to intervene during a cardiac arrest.

Comprehensive training and prompt action can make the difference between life and death. This kind of responsibility can be overwhelming, but it’s not necessary to become a CPR expert overnight. You can make a difference by encouraging your community to educate themselves on SCA readiness.

Here are five ways to get involved and help your colleagues be ready for action during CPR and AED Awareness Week.

1. Encourage CPR and AED Certification

Having the right training under your belt is the best way to feel confident in an emergency. Whether you are a school nurse, a health and safety manager, or another community safety professional, it’s important to be a knowledgeable role model for others in your organization.

If an SCA event occurs, a mere moment of hesitation can affect a victim’s outcomes. Here are a few courses, trainings, and certifications that you could review during CPR and AED Awareness Week. When you sign up for these events, encourage your coworkers to tag along too.

2. Know the Signs and Symptoms

Being a bystander during an emergency can be anxiety provoking. If you are trained in SCA response, you have a responsibility to lead the situation and give the directions required to save a life. Something as simple as telling someone to call 9-1-1 or fetch the closest AED while you begin CPR can make a real difference in survival outcomes.

An AED is a crucial asset during SCA. An AED device provides electric shocks to correct the victim’s cardiac rhythm — some products, like ZOLL® AEDs, will also provide written and verbal instructions to help a team of lay rescuers perform high-quality CPR. So don’t be caught off-guard. Educate yourself and your community about the potential early warning signs of sudden cardiac arrest (SCA). If you recognize any of the following, understand that now is the time to step up and be a hero.

  • Heart palpitations
  • Chest pain
  • Collapse
  • No pulse
  • No breathing
  • Loss of consciousness

When you need to rescue an SCA victim, take a moment to acknowledge any implicit biases. For example, women who suffer from out-of-hospital cardiac arrest receive bystander CPR less often than men (39% vs 45% for men). There are several factors that contribute to this gap. For example, official guidelines for CPR ask bystanders to remove the victim’s shirt, which may provoke hesitation. Additionally, women often display different SCA warning signs, which can add to the uncertainty of a situation, causing bystanders to hesitate.

Young children who experience SCA also receive subpar care due to bystander caution. Studies have found that children under the age of 12 are half as likely to be treated with an AED when compared to older children. This may be due to an AED seeming too powerful for a child, or a general lack of awareness regarding pediatric SCA. While pediatric defibrillator is preferred for these instances, a standard AED will provide them with appropriate care as long as the instructions are followed closely. School nurses in particular need to ensure that all staff understand the capabilities of a standard AED so no child goes without the proper care in a crucial moment.

It’s important to recognize these biases in both yourself and others. With so many misconceptions surrounding CPR and SCA, it’s important to equip yourself and your coworkers with accurate information that dispels these preconceived notions. 

3. Evaluate AED Placement

The next time you are in your workplace, take the time to review where AEDs are located. Have any new AEDs been installed? Are they placed in accessible areas? Is there appropriate signage to guide rescuers?

It’s worth taking the time and effort to double-check that your organization is providing the tools needed to help SCA victims. Place AEDs in a visible area, ensuring that rescuers (including those with disabilities) can find and deliver the AED to the victim within a three-minute window. This includes providing one on each floor, and storing them 48 inches off the ground for better wheelchair access. If you need to place more AEDs in your workplace, consider installing them close to the following locations:

  • Elevators
  • Outside stairways
  • Cafeterias
  • Fitness centers
  • Primary entrances
  • Receptions desks
  • Main corridors

Do a walkthrough of your building, keeping an eye out for any AED signage. If there is no clear guidance to the nearest AED, then your organization should add more signs to help rescuers locate an AED quickly.

However, signage alone won’t help rescuers find an AED in the event of an emergency. Take initiative and spread the word about where AEDs are located in your workplace through email blasts, face-to-face conversations, or even through fun exercises. For example, you could offer a gift card reward to anyone who can find and locate at least half of the AEDs in your building.

4. Ensure Rescue Readiness

Once you’ve ensured that your building has enough AEDs to provide early intervention, take a moment to check that these AEDs are ready for use. Depending on the size of your organization, this can be quite a daunting task. If necessary, explain to managers or other department heads why regular AED maintenance is important, and ask for their assistance. If your colleagues are interested in becoming closely involved in this initiative, ask them to learn more about AED implementation.

Assign somebody to regularly assess the age of the unit, as well as its electrode pad and battery life. Each type of AED will outline their maintenance requirements in their user manual, but as a general rule, electrode pads should be replaced every 18–30 months and batteries should be replaced every 2–5 years. If your organization uses ZOLL AEDs, expect the pads to last up to 5 years, and the batteries to last up to 7 years. ZOLL AEDs also offer automatic self-testing every seven days by default, with the option to self-test more or less frequently depending on your organization’s needs.

The entire AED unit should be replaced by its stamped expiration date, which is typically about every ten years. In addition, ensure the AED’s registration is up-to-date, which will help emergency personnel locate it during an emergency. To help employees and safety professionals keep track of AED maintenance, consider downloading a purpose-built checklist that’s sponsored by the AHA or invest in AED program management software that provides a live look at your current rescue readiness.

This is also a good time to assess your current AED provider. Make sure that their AEDs are simple and easy to use when compared to other offerings on the market. For example, some AEDs provide verbal and written prompts to guide laypeople through the entire rescue process. Then evaluate the services they offer with the purchase of an AED. Many manufacturers and distributors can provide both technical and program support, which can help you put together a holistic SCA preparedness plan.

5. Enable Your Community to Take Action

Set up company-wide training that focuses on AEDs, safety, and how to respond during an emergency. It’s an unfortunate fact that there is a mere 6% chance that a layperson will use an AED during an SCA, so community safety professionals must encourage AED use by assuaging any concerns among their colleagues.

You can start this push by becoming an advocate for the Chain of Survival. This process identifies a sequence of five critical actions that increase survival rates from sudden cardiac arrest and other life-threatening cardiac events, acting as an important guide for lay rescuers. Consider acquiring and distributing posters that elaborate on this process:

Out-of-hospital SCA chain of survival

If you are a school nurse or provide similar health services for students, consider starting a CPR training course at your school. Over 7,000 school-aged children experience SCA outside of a hospital setting every year, and their educators have an obligation to protect them. That’s why the American Red Cross offers a specially designed CPR program for schools that allows educators, administrators, and other staff members to deliver quality CPR training to faculty and students.

Finally, think of a few effective ways to spread awareness about the importance of CPR and AEDs within your workplace. Use the power of social media to share your own personal connection to CPR and AED awareness or honor a survivor of cardiac arrest. Post a photo of you, your family, or friends with the hashtag #AEDsHelpSaveLives and get the message trending on Twitter! Or ask to contribute to your organization’s blog with a personal story about how a bystander made all the difference for a SCA victim.

From starting a fundraiser at your school and advocating for the implementation of an AED program in your community, to setting up training and spreading the facts, there are so many ways to get involved during CPR and AED Awareness Week. By stepping up and becoming an advocate of CPR and AED awareness, you will become a force for the greater good and safety of your community.