Choosing the optimal location for your automated external defibrillator (AED) is critical. AEDs only save lives when they are easy to find and can be used within 3 minutes of a collapse. The survival rates for cardiac arrest decrease by 10% for each minute that passes without emergency medical treatment. Furthermore, very few patients can be revived after 10 minutes without CPR or an electric shock to restore heart rhythm.
To make your AED program as effective as possible, AEDs should be placed in the highest-traffic areas and in locations where a sudden cardiac arrest is the most likely to occur. As part of your organization’s AED training requirements, all trained users should know exactly where to find these devices in an emergency.
AED Location Requirements
Lay responders are immune from certain forms of civil liability when using a portable defibrillator in an emergency. But where can they find such a device when every second counts?
Because of the high fatality rates of sudden cardiac arrest, the American Heart Association (AHA) and other organizations place “targeted AED site placement” as the number one priority on their list of policies for public access defibrillation (PAD) programs. By “targeted,” we are talking about a location that’s convenient, intuitive, accessible, and clearly marked.
Keep the following guidelines in mind when conducting your assessment for optimal AED locations.
For the best chances of an effective response on a cardiac arrest patient, an automated external defibrillator should be able to be used within 3 minutes of collapse. That means that AEDs should be only 1.5 minutes from any spot in the building to allow someone to get there and back and deploy the device in time.
To make a timely response more likely, AEDs should be placed close to the spaces where the most people gather — and not in an obscure spot in a hallway or designated “staff only” storeroom. These are a few examples of high-traffic public areas for various businesses and facilities:
- Restaurant: The main dining area.
- Place of Worship: The main auditorium, kitchen, and meeting hall.
- Gym: The workout space(s) and cafeteria.
- Hotel: The lobby, gym or pool, and conference room.
- School: The office, gymnasium, and lunchroom.
The second consideration for AED location requirements is to place the devices in places where people are more likely to experience cardiac arrest. Because SCA is sometimes (but not always) triggered by physical exertion, it makes sense to place an AED anywhere people are likely to exercise:
- Workout rooms
- Playing courts
- Sport fields
In an emergency, many people struggle to think clearly, so AEDs need to be easy for both workers and bystanders to find. For starters, an AED should never be hidden in a drawer or storage cabinet — especially one that’s locked.
Close to Landmarks
The device should be easy for a bystander to locate — whether or not they work at the facility. This means choosing landmarks with which everyone is familiar or can quickly find:
- The entrance
- The front desk
- The elevator
- The door
Easy to See
When the bystander arrives at the location specified, the AED needs to be easy to see. This could mean reflective arrows and a label that says “Automated External Defibrillator.” The cabinet in which an AED is placed is typically white, yellow, or green with red.
Not Too High Up
Once you’ve found the perfect spot, the automated external defibrillator should be placed such that the handle is no more than 48 inches from the floor so that someone in a wheelchair can easily reach the AED and deliver it to the cardiac arrest victim. This AED location requirement is also helpful for facilities that frequently cater to children in case you need to send an older child or teen for the device.
Imagine that you have located the device but the storage unit that holds it is locked. While AEDs are items of (economic) value, they are only worth the price you paid if they can be easily used to save a life. While a clip to hold the door of the cabinet closed is fine, make it easy enough to open with one hand and retrieve the AED in seconds.
Close to a Telephone
While a shock may revive a victim’s heart, ongoing care is required after an SCA to prevent brain damage, complications, or death. In case there are few bystanders on the scene, place an AED within 2 feet of a telephone so that the bystander can take care of the call to 9-1-1 and collect the device in a single trip.
The basic AED location requirements cover public spaces like lobbies and gyms, but sudden cardiac arrests can happen in other places as well. If your budget allows — and/or it’s required by law — place AEDs in all of the following locations.
One on Each Floor
The vertical separations in apartment buildings, public buildings, schools, offices, hotels, and shopping malls can make it hard to retrieve an AED in a hurry. In these situations, you need an AED on every floor, preferably located near the elevator and stairs.
Secure areas that require a passcode for entry need their own AED as it would be difficult to enter or exit in a rush. Examples could be computer rooms, server rooms, and file rooms.
Examples of State-Specific Laws
As of June 30, 2017, 38 states had specific laws about AED location requirements, including which venues needed an AED and where the AED should be placed. These are a few of the state-specific laws for the signage and placement of AEDs:
- AEDs located in a health spa “shall at all times be placed in the location that best provides accessibility to staff, members, and guests,” must be located “in plain view,” and must be marked with a sign that indicates its location and a sign that provides instructions for use. (Arkansas Code 20-13-1306)
- Any AED installed in a building must have instructions for use posted next to it. (California Health & Safety Code 1797.196)
- Higher education athletic programs must maintain at least one automated external defibrillator in a central location that is within a quarter-mile from each premise used. They must make this location known and accessible to the employees and student-athletes of the institution. (Section 7-60 of the General Statutes)
- AEDs must be kept in buildings within 300 feet of an outdoor physical fitness facility. There must be “unimpeded and open access to the housed AED” with signs from the entrance to the AED. (210 Illinois Compiled Statutes 74/15)
- AEDs in health clubs must be “located on the health club premises and easily accessible to the health club staff, members, and guests.” There must be an easy-to-see sign that explains instructions for use and the steps of cardiopulmonary resuscitation and a sign at each entrance indicating the location of each AED. (Indiana Code 24-4-15)
- AEDs in a health club must be located in a place “that provides obvious and ready accessibility to staff, members, and guests.” (Michigan Compiled Laws 333.26312)
- Buildings with an AED must have a sign at the main entrance that describes the location of the AED. (New York Public Health Law 3000-b)
- An automated external defibrillator in an educational facility must be stored close to the “primary location on campus where students engage in athletic activities.” (Texas Education Code 38.017)
AED Location Requirements Count
Whether or not your state mandates specific AED location requirements, ensuring easy access and clear signage is necessary for locating the device in an emergency.
If your facility is considering beginning or updating an AED program, find out which local laws apply and learn about PAD program best-practice guidelines. It’s always better to go above and beyond, ensuring that your AEDs can always be used in those crucial minutes.