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The importance of knowing how to use a defibrillator. (Spoiler alert – it’s easy!)

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defibrillator training

I am teaching more and more these days (which I love!) and as well as hearing some fascinating and different stories and anecdotes on every course I am also hearing some similar comments week in week out. Specifically, the most common thing I hear is around the defibrillator;

“I have seen them all over town but didn’t know I could use it”

“I have seen the defibs about but would be too scared to use one”

“I thought they were around town so that paramedics could get them to use.”

Because of this, I am on a quest to get as many people as possible understanding how brilliant these machines are; whether that is through joining my regulated and accredited courses, coming to free info sessions I put on in local towns and villages or on my social media and blogs.  

So in this month’s blog I am going to set out some of the important things to know about using a defibrillator..

So what exactly is a defibrillator?

A defibrillator is a machine that gives an electric shock to the heart of someone who is in cardiac arrest with the aim of getting the heart rhythm to start beating normally again.

You would suspect someone is in cardiac arrest if they are NOT breathing.  

A defibrillator may also be called a defib, an AED (Automated External Defibrillator) or a PAD (Public Access Defibrillator).

Public defibrillators are being found all over the place now. You will see them at train stations, shopping centres, in phone boxes, outside pubs, school, churches.

How do I get it out of the box on the wall?

Defibrillators available for public use are generally found in one of two places:

  1. A box on a wall which opens when you pull the handle.

These boxes are usually a little tough to open (so use your strength!) and often have an alarm sounding to make people aware they have been opened

These types of storage units tend to be found inside (so only available during the hours a centre which holds it is open) but a few are also found outside as well.

2. A box on the wall with opens with a code being inputted.

To get into this box you will need to call 999 to get the code to access the defibrillator.

You will need to give the location of the box to the emergency services, and they will then give you a code to input before turning the handle and accessing the defib.

How do I use a defibrillator?

They are really simple to use:

  1. Turn it on

Press the big green button and it will start talking to you. All you need to do is follow the instructions it says.

2. Apply the pads

Peel off the sticky pads and attached them to the casualty’s skin. There are pictures on the pads to show you where they should be placed on the body.

3. Once the pads are attached stop CPR and don’t touch the casualty. At this point the defibrillator with be checking for the casualty’s heart rhythm

4. The defibrillator will tell you if a shock is needed, so this is the point we stand back and don’t touch the casualty.

Some defibrillators ask you to press a button to shock, others automatically shock without a prompt – your machine will tell you.

5. The defibrillator will tell you if a shock has been delivered and whether you need to keep doing CPR.

6. Continue with you CPR chest compressions until the casualty shows signs of life or the defibrillator tells you to stop so it can analyse the heartbeat again.

Anything else I should know?

A couple of things that are important to know:

  • If you find someone on their own not breathing, call 999 and start CPR straight away.

Only go and get a defibrillator if there are two of you with the person – this way the casualty has CPR being administered to them immediately (which will increase their likelihood of survival) whilst the other person brings the defibrillator to the casualty.  

  • A defibrillator won’t work on someone with a regular heart rhythm, this means it won’t shock if the shock isn’t needed.
  • A defibrillator is trying to find an irregular heart rhythm to recalibrate it. This means there are times when you use it where it will say no shock advised, even if the casualty is not breathing. If this happens just keep going with your CPR until the ambulance crew arrive.

Defibrillators / AEDs / PADs are amazing bits of kit and they really can increase the likelihood of saving someone’s life. It is well worth getting to know where your local ones are just in case you ever need to use one.

If you would like to learn more about CPR, try using a defib or anything else first aid related why not book one of my upcoming bookable first aid courses or discuss a private courses for your team by emailing me at

If you would like more hints and tips on all things basic first aid, head over to my Instagram page: or Facebook

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