KSN Investigates: AED’s

Wichita Fire Department AED (KSN photo)

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — A life-saving device known as an automated external defibrillator, or AED, is becoming more widely available in area businesses.

It’s a portable electric device that gives a victim a better chance of recovering from cardiac arrest by telling the person using it how to use it to deliver a shock to the heart.

But how do you know the AED you turn to will be in working condition? Your outcome may rely on the owner’s diligence in maintaining the equipment on their own.

An AED mounted on a wall at Eisenhower Airport (KSN photo).
An AED mounted on a wall at Dwight D. Eisenhower National Airport (KSN photo).

Take for example, fire extinguishers. Most are checked yearly by a certified inspector to make sure they’re in good working condition.

But it’s different when it comes to AED’s. There’s no regular inspection required to make sure the life-saving device you turn to will work.

“It tremendously improves the patient outcome,” explains the medical coordinator for the city of Wichita, Darrel Kohls.

110 times so far this year alone your Sedgwick County and Wichita Fire Departments have used them for life-saving outcomes.

“We use these almost on a daily basis,” says Kohls.

An average of 12 times a month, first responders will depend on their automated external defibrillators, or AED’s.

Click to download AED Placement Form
Click to download AED Placement Form

There are also AEDs available for the public to use. When a business or person buys an AED, a Kansas statute states they should notify the local EMS of it’s location.

“Our crews throughout the city have a pretty good idea where they are — churches that have them, WSU, the airport,” says Kohls.  “We do generally know where they are.”

In Sedgwick County, there are 19 such registered AED’s for public use. But when you turn to an AED for life-saving help, you’re also depending on it to work.

Kohls goes on to say, “I do know, in most public facilities, there’s regular maintenance done on them where people go around and make sure they’re working properly.  But there’s really no state or federal law that mandates different maintenance schedules.”

Several of those registered AED’s in Sedgwick County can be found at Eisenhower National Airport.

“All of our public access AED’s have that sign,” explains Lt. Lloyd Youel with the Airport Police and Fire.

There are 7 AED’s available to the public there, and they’re pretty easy to see and find.

“There’s a window that says ‘OK’ and then there’s three bars that show the batteries,” points out Lt. Youel.

But just in case, Lt. Youel says his crews check the devices monthly to make sure they’re in working order.

Indicator window shows status of device.
Indicator window shows status of device.

There are a lot of different makes and models of AED’s.  Some batteries last 5 years or more, others only 2 years.  Some AED’s emit an audible sound when they need repair, and some AED’s can do a self-check of their system on their own.

“Every 24 hours it does a thorough check. So it turns itself on, it goes through the software to make sure everything’s working properly,” explains Kohls.

But not every model does that. The bottom line is, in Kansas, if you’re lucky enough to work at a place that offers access to an AED you’re relying on someone else to make sure it works.

But you can help with that.

Find your closest AED and check the service window. It is usually in the upper right corner of the device. If there was a problem with the AED, you’d see a wrench or other repair warning.

Another place you can check is the maintenance log.

“If you have an AED, you should go around at least monthly and check your different AED’s on a weekly or monthly basis to make sure they’re in working condition,” advises Kohls.

The simple act of checking that window as you walk by might help prevent a future emergency from becoming a tragedy.

You should remember that while people and businesses are supposed to report the location of their AED to local EMS, there are some that go unreported.

Download the form to report an AED location to your local EMS here.

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