A familiarity with AED service requirements is essential for anyone who owns or manages a portable defibrillator. Proper servicing ensures that the AED is always operable at a moment’s notice; it also helps to ensure that you get the maximum lifespan from your device.
Certain aspects of AED service may also be required by law in the state where you live—especially for AEDs located in public schools, public buildings, fitness centers, and other large properties. Refer to our guide to AED Regulations by State for more information. Additional resources are also available on our AED blog.
AED Service Requirements vs. Maintenance Requirements
Before we get started, it’s important to clarify the essentials of AED service vs. AED maintenance. In short, all service procedures are considered maintenance, but not all maintenance procedures are considered service.
Think of it in terms of cars. If you take your car in for maintenance, you’re generally taking preventive steps to keep the car functioning at its best. Examples include oil changes and brake inspections. When you take your car to get serviced, you’re addressing an issue that isn’t covered by routine maintenance, such as a repair or part replacement.
The same basic rules apply to AEDs. Proper maintenance is essential because these are tightly regulated medical devices. Your maintenance schedule includes:
- Quarterly or monthly inspections. California requires quarterly inspections. But many other states like New York, Texas, and Florida require monthly inspections. All regular inspections should be documented and recorded.
- Replacing your battery and pads before their expiration dates (generally every 2 to 5 years, depending on the model). It’s also a good idea to keep extra pads on hand, as well as a set of pediatric pads if your device requires them for children. Some AEDs require separate pads for kids while others—like the ZOLL AED3 and LIFEPAK CR2—can safely deliver shocks to both adults and children using the same pads.
- Renewing your physician prescription annually. Most AEDs require a physician prescription. The only exception is the Philips OnSite, and even then, the prescription requirement is only waived when the device is intended for personal home use. For most AEDs, the prescription must be renewed annually. Many states—like New York, Colorado, New Mexico, and many others—also require ongoing physician oversight to ensure that the proper training requirements are upheld and that the device receives the required maintenance and service.
So if maintenance is about keeping your device in compliance and in working order, service is all about what happens when your device has a problem or is in danger of having a problem.
AED Service Requirements
The following signs may indicate that your automated external defibrillator requires service:
- The status/service indicator light is flashing red or not showing any light at all. This is often accompanied by a chirping sound. When the AED is emergency-ready, it should reveal a green light or green checkmark.
- The AED isn’t working properly. You may see an error message, or the AED may not function at all.
- Your AED was recently used in a cardiac event.
- Your AED is nearing the end of its warranty period.
Errors and Bad Status Indicator Lights
If the problem is a red indicator light or device malfunction, try turning on or opening the device. The voice or visual instructions should tell you what to do next. Some AEDs will indicate which button to press in order to get more information. For example, in the case of Philips AEDs, this is a blue colored ‘i’ button (for ‘Information’).
Sometimes the problem is as simple as a low battery. In other cases, you may be prompted to perform a manual self-test. Be sure to review your user manual for device-specific manufacturer guidelines that may help you troubleshoot your AED.
For example, if you use a HeartSine Samaritan PAD 350P, the user manual recommends turning on the power, waiting for the voice prompt, and then turning off the power. If you use a ZOLL AED Plus, the ZOLL AED Plus Administrator’s Guide recommends initiating a self-test by holding the ON/OFF button for at least 5 seconds. While initiating a self-test can be helpful for diagnosing a service issue, it is important to note that initiating routine monthly or quarterly self tests as part of your standard visual inspections are not recommended, as it will prematurely deplete your battery.
If you’re unable to fix the problem on the spot, you’ll need to send your AED to the authorized distributor or to your program manager for servicing. Refer to the terms of your warranty.
After a Cardiac Event
If the AED is in working order but was recently used in a cardiac arrest emergency, the device will need to be refurbished. The pads need to be thrown out, the battery may have been depleted during the event, and the device may need to be meticulously cleaned and disinfected if it came into contact with bodily fluids. In addition, the device will need to be examined and tested for circuitry issues as well as physical damage before it can be restored for emergency medical use.
Separate from the AED itself, you’ll need to fill out any necessary post-event reports (such as those that are often required at the county EMS level) and download the EKG data for physician review if you live in one of the 17 states where medical oversight is required.
The best way to meet your post-event obligations is to work with an AED program manager that handles the paperwork and refurbishing for you. At AED Leader, we provide complete, comprehensive program management. Immediately after an event, our team will:
- Process the post-event paperwork and reporting.
- Download the EKG data and provide it to any overseeing physicians.
- Overnight a loaner AED to your location so that you have no downtime while we refurbish your primary device. We’ll send you the same model as the one being refurbished, and we’ll give you a postage-paid label so you can easily send us your used device.
- Refurbish your primary device from top to bottom.
- Return your primary AED—complete with new pads and battery—as soon as the refurbishing is complete. All you have to do is return the loaner device.
Learn more about our AED program management solution if you’d like to get started.
Your AED Is Nearing the End of Its Lifespan
Most AEDs carry a 7- to 8-year warranty. The Department of the Army Technical Bulletin (TB MED 7) lists the life expectancy of a defibrillator at eight years. After that, the health of the device may start to decline.
Once the AED is nearing or has passed this warranty period, it may be best to consider trading it in or purchasing a new or refurbished one. Don’t throw away the old AED. Look for sites that will purchase and refurbish your existing device, and purchase a new one in its place.
AED Program Management Makes Servicing Easy
When your AED requires servicing, it isn’t always easy to know the right protocol. Do you send it to the manufacturer or the distributor? How do you ship it properly? And what happens if a cardiac emergency occurs in the meantime?
For these reasons, we always recommend opting for AED program management. When you have an expert overseeing your AED program, their help is always just a phone call away. You never have to wonder what to do next, and your maintenance and servicing needs are always taken care of.
According to the American Heart Association, 9 out of 10 cardiac arrest sufferers who receive an electric shock within one minute survive. The importance of an active, readily available AED can scarcely be overstated. Ensure that yours is always ready to provide emergency care at a moment’s notice.