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Home > Topics > Cardiac Care
June 24, 2014
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EMS News in Focus
by Arthur Hsieh

Not having AEDs in big-box stores puts customers at undue risk

AEDs are just as essential as first aid kits, fire extinguishers, smoke alarms, emergency exits, sprinkler systems, and other safety equipment that costs far more and is used far less

By Arthur Hsieh

In what signals the end to a wrongful death lawsuit, the Supreme Court ruled that AEDs should not be required in California stores, saying "'s an undue burden to require Target to obtain defibrillators and train staff to use them on the random chance that a customer suffers cardiac arrest."

Unless of course, that random chance involves you, or someone you know and love.

While large department stores such as Target, Walmart, Costco and hundreds of other businesses are private properties, the fact is that millions of Americans walk through the doors freely every day. And with that number of people is the undeniable chance that someone will have sudden cardiac arrest during a shopping excursion.

These stores all have first aid kits, fire extinguishers, smoke alarms, emergency exits, sprinkler systems, and other safety equipment that costs far more and is used far less.

Given the purchasing power of these businesses, you can't tell me that they couldn't purchase AEDs and have them installed for less than $1,000 apiece.

We know that time is not on the patients' side when they collapse in ventricular fibrillation. From the time of onset, to detection by nearby shoppers, to notification of staff, to activation of 911 and beginning CPR, these steps take time, even before the wheels of the closest emergency apparatus begin to roll. The AED has been shown to be essential to the reversal of VF and pulseless ventricular tachycardia.

Not making for-profit businesses responsible for providing AEDS, when they stock equipment and meet regulations for other life-safety situations, seems contradictory and out of synch with existing policies. 

About the author

EMS1 Editor in Chief Art Hsieh, MA, NREMT-P currently teaches at the Public Safety Training Center, Santa Rosa Junior College in the Emergency Care Program. Since 1982, Art has worked as a line medic and chief officer in the private, third service and fire-based EMS. He has directed both primary and EMS continuing education programs. Art is a textbook author, has presented at conferences nationwide, and continues to provide patient care at an EMS service in Northern California. Contact Art at
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