Anyone can purchase and own an automated external defibrillator (AED), but it’s not as simple as walking into a store and tossing it in your shopping cart. There are strict legal requirements for both purchasing and maintaining an AED, and these requirements can vary significantly from one state to the next. The good news is that, when you know what to do, the whole process is pretty easy.
How to Get an AED – 5 Requirements
While each state imposes its own rules, there are five common requirements for AED ownership:
- A physician’s prescription
- Medical oversight
We’ll go through them one by one, but to find out which requirements are applicable to your state, please refer to our handy state-by-state Legislation Map.
1. A Prescription Is Required for Most AEDs
Like most major medical devices, an automated external defibrillator typically requires a physician’s prescription, and that prescription must be renewed annually. This is the one requirement that is mandated at the federal level, so it applies no matter where you live in the U.S.
There are no specific requirements or prerequisites to obtaining an AED prescription, and almost anyone is eligible. But because these are major medical devices subject to FDA regulations, the prescription allows for a basic level of oversight.
There is one AED that doesn’t require a prescription: The Philips HeartStart OnSite. As long as it’s purchased for personal (as opposed to professional) use, there are no barriers standing in your way. Best of all, the OnSite is affordable, rugged, and simple to use, so it’s an excellent choice for the untrained layperson.
If you do opt for an AED that requires a prescription, don’t worry. Many AED retailers offer the prescription along with the device itself, often as part of a complete AED compliance package. It’s always a good idea to invest in AED program management, like the kind offered by AED Leader, because all of your compliance obligations are handled by knowledgeable experts.
2. Medical Oversight Is Often Required for AEDs
The following states require physician oversight of all AEDs, whether you’re purchasing on behalf of a large company or your own home:
- District of Columbia
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- South Carolina
- West Virginia
The physician will provide basic AED training to relevant members of your organization, help you to establish guidelines, and ensure that the AED is emergency-ready. The physician is also responsible for examining post-event data. For example, if the AED is used to treat a cardiac arrest, the audio and EKG data can be extracted from the device and used to assess the patient’s overall condition and determine whether proper treatment protocols were followed.
Your prescribing physician should assist you with the oversight requirement. Even if you purchase an AED without a prescription, you may still be required to maintain medical oversight. This is where AED program management comes in handy.
3. Most AEDs Must Be Registered
After purchasing your AED, you must typically register it with your emergency medical services department(s). This is a quick and simple process, but it can take a bit of research to determine which departments are applicable to your location. Your prescribing physician or AED program management provider can assist you with this.
Maintaining an official record of all AEDs is important for basic compliance, but it also serves a practical purpose. If someone experiences a cardiac arrest in public or in a private residence, emergency services providers can refer to the database and determine if an AED is nearby.
4. AED Personnel Must Undergo Training
Numerous states require AED purchasers and operators to undergo training for emergency use. Depending on where you live and what type of facility you operate, you may be required to complete not only AED training but also CPR certification.
For example, New York requires gyms and fitness centers to have at least one CPR/AED-certified employee on site at all times during business hours. California schools require AED training for all individuals who might reasonably be expected to use the AED, including coaches, P.E. teachers, and related faculty.
5. AEDs Must Undergo Routine Maintenance
An automated external defibrillator is not a “set it and forget it” device. AEDs require ongoing maintenance to ensure constant readiness at a moment’s notice. Batteries and pads must be replaced before their expiration dates, operating software must be kept current, and error messages must be addressed promptly.
The good news is that AEDs undergo dozens of daily, weekly, and monthly self-tests to ensure readiness. If a problem does arise, or if a battery is losing power, you’ll typically receive an audible alert. It’s then your responsibility as the owner to remedy the problem.
If you have AED program management, you’ll also receive reminders for important maintenance items such as parts replacements and prescription renewals.
How to Choose an AED
When choosing an AED, the most important thing is to go with an FDA-approved brand like Philips, Medtronic, ZOLL, HeartSine, Stryker, Physio-Control, Defibtech, or LIFEPAK. These brands produce defibrillators that are legal, high-quality, and proven safe.
Other qualities to consider include:
- Cost. The most affordable models include the HeartSine Samaritan PAD 350P and the aforementioned Philips HeartStart OnSite.
- Child-friendliness. Children require unique shock settings, and you want a device that easily accommodates that if you work in an environment with children. The LIFEPAK CR2 is one of the most child-friendly AEDs available.
- Ease of use. Most AEDs are pretty simple to use, except for those models specifically designed for emergency professionals, like the ZOLL AED Pro. Some of the most user-friendly models include the ZOLL AED Plus and the Defibtech Lifeline VIEW.
- Multi-language capabilities. Some devices are bilingual, but some are not. If you’re placing the AED in a bilingual environment, you’ll want a multi-language device like the Philips FR3.
- Durability. Look for devices that meet MIL-SPEC standards and are IP-rated for protection against water, shock, vibration, and other elements.
- Semi-automatic vs fully automatic. A semi-automatic AED will prompt you to press a ‘Shock’ button. A fully automatic AED delivers the shock without your intervention. Neither option is better; it all boils down to personal preference.
Determine which qualities are essential for your AED, and shop accordingly.
How to Get an AED the Easy Way
The AED purchasing process may sound complicated, but it’s really not. Start by browsing AEDs for sale. As you complete your purchase, you may be presented with the option of adding AED program management. AED Leader offers this for free with new defibrillator purchases. Just complete your purchase and let your program manager take care of the initial compliance steps. You’ll be contacted with additional information on how to get started.
An automated external defibrillator is easy to maintain when you have experts on your side. Purchase one for your home or organization, and experience the added peace of mind.