Most states have AED testing requirements to ensure that defibrillators are working and ready to use in an emergency. Conducting visual inspections and testing the device is the responsibility of the person or organization that owns the AED and must be carried out according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
Why Is AED Testing Important?
To Save Lives
Out-of-hospital sudden cardiac arrest affects around 1,000 people each day in the United States and is almost always fatal unless life-saving measures are taken immediately. In a cardiac arrest situation, the victim’s heart starts to quiver rather than beat (called ventricular fibrillation), and blood stops circulating to the vital organs, leading to the death of brain cells and ultimately to the death of the person.
Automated external defibrillators deliver an electric shock that can, in many cases, restore a normal heart rhythm. When used together with cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), AEDs can double survival rates. However, external defibrillators can only save lives if they have all of the necessary parts intact and the battery has a sufficient charge.
Imagine that someone you love is suffering a cardiac arrest, and an AED arrives at their side— but then the responder discovers that the pads are missing and the battery is depleted. If the AED had been tested and maintained properly, a tragedy could have been prevented. In fact, 1 in 4 defibrillator device malfunctions are the result of a battery failure. And if that device is yours, you may be liable for negligence.
To Protect Yourself
All 50 states have some form of Good Samaritan law to protect people and institutions that attempt to save a life using an automated external defibrillator. While these protections are very strong for the rescuers themselves, in order for this civil liability protection to cover the entity or organization that owns the AED, most states require the AED to be maintained as per the manufacturer’s guidelines and a record kept of maintenance performed. Many states also set minimum AED testing requirements.
For example, according to California Health and Safety Code – 1797.196, entities in California that acquire an AED are only granted civil immunity for the use of that AED if they:
- Maintain and test each AED according to the manufacturer’s guidelines.
- Test the AED at least biannually and each time the AED is used.
- Inspect all AEDs at least once every 90 days for a blinking light or obvious damage that shows the AED may have been tampered with or that the AED isn’t working properly.
- Keep records showing that the required maintenance and testing requirements are being met.
Record-Keeping is Essential
As previously noted, record-keeping is part of the AED testing requirements in California, and whether you acquired your AEDs in the Golden State or elsewhere, there are two very good reasons why keeping written evidence of maintenance is important:
- Evidence in the Case of a Lawsuit
The law provides civil immunity if you use an AED in good faith, but only if the AED was maintained correctly and records were kept of each inspection. If there are no records of routine inspections and the AED malfunctions (resulting in death or permanent brain damage), you will be held liable for the outcome in court even if the device had not expired.
- To Make a Warranty Claim
Portable defibrillator manufacturers provide a warranty on each device that ranges from five to eight years, depending on the device. Conducting regular maintenance checks allows you to submit a warranty claim if something goes wrong before the warranty period is up and/or if the battery goes flat before the expiration date.
AED Maintenance Checklist (for All AEDs)
No matter which external defibrillator your institution carries, the process for carrying out a maintenance check is very similar:
- Check that the placement of the AED in the building is correct.
- Check that the device is unlocked and positioned in an accessible location.
- Check that the cabinet, signage, and device have not been physically damaged.
- Check that the status or “ready” light is green and not red or flashing.
- Check that the pads and battery are all present and have not expired.
- Check that any accessories such as protective masks, gloves, and razors are in good condition and stored correctly.
- Document the date and time of the inspection, whether the AED was in good condition, and any actions that were taken (battery or electrode pad replacement, updating signage, etc…).
While some AEDs, such as the LIFEPAK CR2, report their status remotely via Wi-Fi, it’s still a good idea to inspect and test the device regularly in case the cabinet itself has been damaged or accessories have been removed from the kit. Your AED program should have detailed policies about the maintenance and testing of each device. Be sure to follow these policies and use the physical or electronic record-keeping system established as part of this program.
AED Maintenance Checklist After an Event:
- Download the event data and send it to the medical director as required. Remember that medical information must be kept confidential.
- Remove the event data from the device, according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Replace the battery and electrode pads.
- Return the AED to its proper location in the building.
Manufacturer AED Testing Requirements for Some of the Most Popular AEDs
- When you receive the device, fill out the warranty card and send it to the manufacturer to receive notifications about updates and recalls.
- Once a week, check the status indicator for device functionality. An intermittent green light means that the AED is ready to use. A beeping sound or red light that lasts for more than 10 seconds indicates a problem.
- Once a month, check the unit for damage and review the battery and pad expiration dates.
- If any damage is detected, send the device to the manufacturer for repair.
- Conduct periodic checks to make sure that the green status indicator light is blinking and that the electrode pads and batteries are up to date.
- After each use, replace the batteries and pads, clean the device according to the manufacturer’s instructions, and note the new expiration dates of the pads and battery on the maintenance tag. If the device is damaged or broken, send it back to the manufacturer for maintenance.
- Perform the following periodic checks:
- Check that the Rescue Ready (R) indicator is green.
- Check that the battery doesn’t show a red light.
- Check the voice prompts and display.
- Check that the electrode pads are ready for use and that the service beep is working.
Stay on Top of AED Testing Requirements
In the U.S., many states set minimum AED testing requirements that you must meet in order to avoid liability issues. The purpose of these laws is to ensure that each device is always ready to save a life. The user manual of each automated external defibrillator contains specific instructions for how to perform maintenance on the device, and it’s important to review this information carefully.
Staying compliant is easy when you sign up for AED program management, like the kind offered by AED Leader. All inspections are recorded and documented using our app or web portal. Whereas AED inspection tags can be manipulated, program management allows for an official record of inspections with a timestamp that can’t be manipulated. This ensures better liability protection.
By keeping your devices up to date, you will be ready at every moment to save a life—and that’s what AEDs are there for!