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With AEDs, information is power

A recent survey by Dutch researchers showed that half of respondents would be unwilling or unable to use an AED if a situation called for it.

Information comes from good education.

In this case, it sounds like the survey participants did not know enough information about AEDs to feel confident and safe when deciding to use one. For sudden cardiac arrest, this represents a crucial moment of truth for the patient — will the bystander use the AED?

It's easy for us EMS providers to grasp the concepts. After all, it's part of our daily routine to check the AED and manual defibrillators in our rigs, and it's a requirement for nearly all of us to maintain that BLS professional rescuer certificate in order to perform our job.

That level of familiarity can lull us into a false sense of confidence that the rest of the population somehow intuitively knows as much as we do. It’s no surprise then that, in this study, more than half of the participants couldn't even identify the locker that contained an AED, even though it was only a few feet from where the survey interview took place.

If you provide AED training to your community training, keep this in mind.

The study serves as a good reminder to make sure we take nothing for granted. During a training session, ask how many people know what an AED looks like. Ask if they know where there is one, either at their worksite or in their community.

These days, there's a good chance there is one not far from their home or work, or in just about a location they travel. Make sure your students get a fair amount of hands-on time with the trainers. Many will look at them as if they were complex pieces of medical equipment, and will feel unsure about their ability to use them.

While it's true that AEDs are sophisticated tools, they are also designed to be as simple to use as possible. Getting that message across will improve a would-be rescuer's confidence level greatly, and provide the motivation necessary for her to make the right choice when someone's life depends on it.

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