If you use community facilities to deliver your activities but don’t own an Automated External Defibrillator (AED), knowing how to access an AED at the venues you use will help to save precious time in the event of an emergency.

There are approximately 60,000 cases of Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) outside of a hospital setting in the UK every year, of which only 1 in 10 survive (UK Coaching SCA Toolkit 2021). Every minute without effective action decreases someone’s survival rate by 10% (British Heart Foundation 2021).

What is an Automated External Defibrillator?

An AED is a portable machine that can administer an electric shock to someone’s heart if they are in cardiac arrest, to help restore a normal heartbeat. AEDs can be used without prior knowledge or training. They provide simple, clear instructions to the person operating it. For more information on AEDs, click here.  

Some community venues have AEDs installed, but their accessibility can vary. Finding out about the availability and access of AEDs at the sites you use will ensure you are ready to respond in an emergency.

Different venues will have different arrangements when it comes to accessing their AEDs. These might range from:

  • Full public access, for example the AED is fixed to an external wall enabling anyone to use it.
  • Restricted access for users only, for example clubs and groups are told where the AED is and given the security code to access a cabinet or room where the AED is stored.
  • Restricted access to staff members only, for example, community users need to make an on-duty staff member aware of the emergency in order for them to access the AED.
  • The venue either not having an AED onsite, or not making it available to community users.

Ask your venue some questions to get the information you need, for example:

  • How many AEDs are onsite? Where are they stored? Are they serviced regularly?
  • How can they be accessed by community users?
  • If access is given to community users but not the public, do you need to be aware of specific passcodes, have access to keys so different rooms etc.?
  • If access is only possible through a staff member, how does the venue ensure  community users have up-to-date contact information for the relevant people? What should you do in an emergency if the staff member can’t be contacted?
  • If there isn’t an AED onsite, is there one nearby that access could be arranged for? Are there plans for the facility to purchase an AED in future?

Once you understand the access arrangements, be sure to share this information so everyone knows what to do in an emergency. You could:

  • Get all of the necessary information and decide who needs to be aware of it. You might decide that everyone should be aware of general access arrangements for the AED, but only share security codes with those who might be responsible in an emergency such as committee members and first aiders. If you are only sharing the code with limited people, ensure at least one of these people is present at all sessions.
  • Decide how to share information. For example, you could draw a map showing where the AED is  located, and include regular reminders in your comms with people.
  • Include the relevant information during inductions for new volunteers, staff members, and participants as appropriate. Tell them where to find the AED, how to access it and give them the opportunity to ask questions.
  • Keep a copy of all relevant information in your first aid boxes, and/or any other easily accessible locations. Make sure people know this is available.
  • Talk to the venue about any further support they could offer. For example, can the offer regular sessions explaining how the AED is accessed and used in more detail?

What can you do if there is no AED onsite?

If the facilities you use don’t have an AED, or can’t make it available to you, considering alternatives is important. Find out where the nearest available AED is and explore how accessible this would be in an emergency.

You can ask the staff at the facility or other community users and organisations where the nearest AED is. If this doesn’t help, explore other local and national information sources. The National Defibrillator Database is a good place to start, and you can also try Heartsafe’s AED map.

If there is not an accessible AED nearby, consider whether your organisation could secure funding to buy its own. This could be done through official funding routes, or your own efforts. Consider teaming up with other community users to share costs and fundraising responsibilities. If you do choose to buy one, be sure to register it with the National Defibrillator Database and The Circuit, a database run by the British Heart Foundation that links NHS ambulances to nearby AEDs.

Where can you find out more about Sudden Cardiac Arrest and AEDs?

UK Coaching has a Sudden Cardiac Arrest toolkit and e-learning module available on their website. You can also click here to download the AED guidance infographic developed by Sport England, Sheffield Hallam University, the Joe Humphries Memorial Trust and the British Heart Foundation.

Last modified: Tuesday, 12 April 2022, 1:36 PM