Frequently Asked Questions
1. What is SCA?
Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) is a condition that occurs when the electrical impulses of the
human heart malfunction, causing a disturbance in the heart’s electrical rhythm. This erratic
and ineffective electrical heart rhythm causes complete cessation of the heart’s normal
function of pumping blood. Unless treatment (chest compressions and AED use) is delivered
within minutes, brain death is certain.
2. What is an AED?
An automated external defibrillator (AED) is a lightweight, portable device that delivers an
electric shock through the chest to the heart. The shock can stop an irregular rhythm and allow
a normal rhythm to resume in a heart in sudden cardiac arrest. Sudden cardiac arrest is an
abrupt loss of heart function. If it’s not treated within minutes, it quickly leads to death. An
AED is to only be applied to victims who are unconscious and not breathing normally. The AED
will analyze the heart rhythm and advise the operator if a shock is needed.
3. Why are AEDs important?
AEDs make it possible for non-Emergency professionals to respond to a medical emergency
where defibrillation is required. Because AEDs are portable, they can be used by nonmedical
people. They can be made part of emergency response programs that also include rapid use of
9-1-1 and prompt delivery of cardio pulmonary resuscitation (CPR). All three of these activities
are vital to improving survival from cardiac arrest.
4. Why do we need an AED in addition to CPR?
CPR is not intended to re-start the heart and restore a normal, effective heart beat- only an AED
can achieve that goal. CPR is intended to manually circulate blood throughout the body to
prevent damage to the organs and brain.
5. How does an AED work?
A built-in computer checks a victim’s heart rhythm through adhesive electrodes (pads). The
computer calculates whether defibrillation is needed. If it is, a recorded voice tells the rescuer
to press the shock button on the AED. This shock momentarily stuns the heart and stops all
activity. It gives the heart a chance to resume beating effectively. Instructions guide the user
through the process. AEDs advise a shock only for ventricular defibrillation or another
life-threatening condition called pulseless ventricular tachycardia.
6. Who can use an AED?
Non-medical personnel such as police, fire service personnel, flight attendants, security guards
and other lay rescuers or community members who act in good faith can use AEDs.
7. Where should AEDs be placed?
All first-response vehicles, including ambulances, law-enforcement vehicles and many fire
engines should have an AED. AEDs should also be placed in public areas such as sports arenas,
gated communities, airports, office complexes, doctor’s offices and any other public or private
place where large numbers of people gather or where people at high risk for heart attacks live.
8. Where can I get AED training?
The North Dakota Safety Council offers public and private CPR/AED & First Aid courses- for
individuals or entire companies. For more information visit our website www.ndsc.org/firstaid.
9. What are the North Dakota laws regarding AEDs?
Click here for a copy of the North Dakota Century Code regarding AEDs and CPR.
10. If I use an AED- am I covered under the Good Samaritan Law?
Yes - as long as you are acting in good faith and following the manufacturer’s instructions.
11. What is the life-span of an AED?
There are multiple brands and models of AEDs. Typically, the AED unit has a warranty of 5-10
12. How long are the pads good for?
It varies by device. But, in general, they are good for 2-3 years.
13. How long do batteries last?
It varies by device. But, in general, batteries last 4-5 years.
14. What if the victim has a pacemaker?
Ignore the presence of the pacemaker.
15. What if the victim has an implanted defibrillator?
The AED is not needed for someone who has an implanted defibrillator. However, if the
implanted defibrillator is not firing, you can consider attaching an AED (it is possible the
implanted defibrillator is not working properly). The AED will not harm the implanted
16. Will an AED save everyone in cardiac arrest?
No. Many factors such as whether the collapse was witnessed, the heart’s rhythm, and the
underlying condition of the victim determine whether the victim lives or dies. Just like
seatbelts do not prevent all motor vehicle deaths - they dramatically increase survival rates.
AEDs are similar - if used quickly and properly they can increase survival rates from less than
10% to nearly 60%!