You may think that once you’ve purchased your defibrillator, you can forget about it until the moment you need it (which we all hope never comes!) but unfortunately, this isn’t the case. Having a defibrillator does come with some responsibilities, such as making sure the pads and batteries are working, the defibrillator is kept in good working order and isn’t exposed to conditions that could cause damage and impair its use in any way. Like most things, you need to make sure you look after it. Luckily, they are relatively low maintenance if you know what to look for - there are simple checks you can carry out regularly to ensure you defibrillator is in tip top condition, and we talk you through each of them in this handy blog.
Reviewing your electrode pads and battery
An automatic external defibrillator is a sophisticated piece of equipment which should be well cared for in order to keep it fully functional for years to come. Like most things, if it is left to one side and forgotten about, it could become useless in the event that you actually need it.
On average, most pads have a shelf life of 2 years, which means they must be changed after this time or after each use (whichever comes first). Some defibrillators require separate pads for use on children (paediatric pads) and adults, which is usually regarded as anyone over the age of 8 years old.
Batteries usually have an average life of around 5 years, but this can depend on a number of factors, even down to the temperature the defibrillator is kept at (cold temperatures can cause the battery to drain quicker) and how frequently the defibrillator is used. The battery life usually equates to a certain number of shocks that can be delivered by a device. Weather conditions can also have an effect on the electrode pads, as cold temperatures can cause the gel inside the pads to freeze, which then affects their ability to conduct the electric shock to a patient when they are applied to the skin. The adhesive that sticks the pads to the skin can also lose its stickiness if they become wet, or are exposed to the air as they can collect dust and debris. This is why it’s important that pads remain in their packaging until they are needed in an emergency.
Defibrillator pads usually have an expiry date printed on the packaging, and batteries usually display an expiry or manufacturer’s date, which helps you identify roughly how long your battery should last. Most defibrillator battery warranties begin when the battery in inserted into the defibrillator.
When your defibrillator battery is dead, please ensure you dispose of it properly. You should be able to recycle them with your local council or battery recycling schemes available at most supermarkets. You should not dispose of your defibrillator battery with your general waste, as it is harmful to the environment, and could result in a penalty fine.
You may want to make sure you have a spare set of pads on hand in the event that your existing pack is used, and you should make sure you replace the battery in plenty of time before it dies. Some pads and batteries come in a combined pack, which means they must be replaced at the same time because they are one unit. Defibrillators such as the HeartSine range and LifePak have a combined battery and pad pack. You can shop defibrillator pads and batteries here (link). If you’re not sure which battery, pads or combo pack you require, get in touch with us and we’d be happy to advise.
Visual Display Checks
The vast majority of defibrillators conduct daily basic self-tests to ensure that the inner components of the device are working properly. Most defibrillators also have a display screen which will indicate if a fault has been found however, some devices indicate this with a green or red light instead.
If a machine fails a self-test, it is likely there is a problem with it that you will be unable to fix yourself, and so it must be looked at by a professional immediately. You may need to pay a call-out fee for an engineer to review the machine, or alternatively you may need to send the device back to the manufacturer for them to examine, which could leave you without a defibrillator for a prolonged period of time.
Depending on the fault and warranty cover provided, the device may need to have a part(s) replaced which can be costly. We recommend that you check the device display regularly so errors can be picked up on prior to an emergency situation, where the AED may not perform as needed. The last thing you want is to go to use your defibrillator and it not work!
Full Health Check
It is generally recommended that your defibrillator undergoes a professional evaluation at least once a year. There may be a fault that isn’t displayed by the machine, and that you yourself don’t pick up on if you don’t know what to look for.
Professional checks are, as you would expect, more comprehensive than the automatic self check the device carries out on its own accord. A professional is able to check the device’s ability to recognise different heart rhythms, make sure it is diagnosing them correctly and can then carry out the correct action (in other words, deliver a shock if the device deems it necessary).
The older your defibrillator is, it’s inevitable that the components within it will age, and become more likely to falter, especially if your device isn’t properly looked after.
Basic AED testing frequency
It’s important you carry out regular checks on your defibrillator which includes a visual examination, where you simply need to look for any apparent damage or missing parts. You may also be able to identify damage incurred by water, or trauma such as dropping the defibrillator, which may result in dents, chips or crack in the body work of the defibrillator and possible internal damage.
You can conduct a basic audio check by turning on your defibrillator and listening to its instructions to ensure the audio is working as it should. If you can’t hear any audio at all or if the sound is muffled, this is likely to mean there is a sound fault somewhere, and should be looked at by a professional.
You only really need to carry out more extensive checks every one or two months or so to evaluate the condition of your AED’s pads, battery and other accessories. If you are aren’t completely confident in carrying out these checks effectively, we strongly recommend you enlist the help of a professional for total peace of mind.
It’s 100% worthwhile arranging a defibrillator and CPR training session for your staff, visitors, local community or anyone who may have access to the defibrillator at any time, so they feel completely confident to use it should they ever need to. If possible, training should be arranged as close to when the defibrillator is installed so you can become familiar with it straight away. It’s worth bearing in mind that you don’t HAVE to be trained to use a defibrillator, but it undoubtedly helps to dispel some of the discomfort you might feel about using one. Although most people say CPR and defibrillator skills stay with you for life, it’s also a good idea to arrange refresher training sessions every once in a while to make sure these lifesaving skills are always fresh in your mind, and that you are up to date on the most recent CPR and defibrillation guidelines set out by the Resuscitation Council UK.
CPR and defibrillator courses are run by a number of charities and organisations, usually for a fee or donation, so make sure you do some research to find a training company that is best suited to you and your requirements. For example, some require a minimum number of participants to be present for the training session, and some may not offer in person training at the moment due to COVID, so these are just a few factors for you to bear in mind.
Device warranty and product recalls
Most defibrillators are covered by a manufacturer’s warranty, regardless of where you purchase one from. You will need to check the specific terms of your device warranty so you understand what is covered and what isn’t, and how long the warranty lasts for. Some components such as the battery may have a separate warranty so you will need to check this separately.
While it is relatively rare, you should also be aware that sometimes, some defibrillator models may be subject to a product recall if there has been a recurring issue with multiple devices. Many manufacturers’ allow you to register your device with them, which should help you make sure you don’t miss any product recall notices, as your warranty may become void if you don’t return your defibrillator to the manufacturer in the event it is recalled.
Replacing your defibrillator
Unfortunately, defibrillators don’t last forever so eventually, you will need to replace it with an entirely new machine. Depending on its usage and servicing, a defibrillator should last on average between 5 - 7 years. The defibrillator with the longest warranty (that we’re aware of) currently is the iPAD SP1, which comes with a warranty of 10 years when you register the device with the manufacturer. We understand that a defibrillator can be a significant investment, especially for small businesses, so you want to make sure you get the most out of your defibrillator.
It is advised that as your defibrillator approaches 7 years of life, you should consider getting a new one. It is worth noting that you may want to upgrade your defibrillator to a newer model with different specifications and capabilities if your requirements change - for example, higher spec devices may have features such as ECG capabilities, 3G connectivity or CPR feedback which you may not have needed before, but now may require for one reason or another. Some defibrillators are more advanced and may be more suitable for healthcare settings, and some are suitable for use by any lay person, are less threatening to look at and will simply do the job it’s designed for - helping you save a life.
If you have any questions regarding defibrillator care, get in touch with our friendly team and we will be happy to advise you on any concerns you may have.
Remember - look after your defibrillator and it will look after you.