In a cardiac arrest, every moment counts. Promisingly, research shows that using an automated external defibrillator (AED) in conjunction with CPR within minutes of a cardiac arrest can boost an individual’s survival rates by 50 per cent. For this reason, the Government of Ontario is moving forward with an Act that will ensure the presence of these life-saving devices in public premises and some private premises.
The Act, entitled Defibrillator Registration and Public Access Act, 2020, received royal assent on June 18, 2020. It will impose new rules requiring public spaces to install, maintain, and test AEDs on designated premises or public premises. Moreover, it will require premises to register their devices with the registrar within specified time periods, thereby ensuring that anyone phoning 9-1-1 in an emergency can be told where the nearest AED is located.
“The initiatives within this Act are something that myself and many people within the first aid community have been lobbying for, for many years,” says Martin Andrews, President of Vita First Aid. “First aid training is mandatory for many businesses and organizations, and that training includes how to use an AED. Yet, until now, legislation hadn’t caught up to say you need to have these critical devices in your facility to be able to use what you’ve been trained to do.”
Support for the act is driven by a desire to increase survival rates among the nearly 7,000 Ontarians experience cardiac arrests every year. Typically, individuals who experience an event have a ten-minute window in which chances of survival reduce by 10% per minute a defibrillation is delayed. And given the reality that EMS may take longer to arrive, having an AED close by in these situations can literally mean the difference between life and death.
“Using an AED absolutely makes a difference,” adds Andrews. “What happens in a cardiac arrest is that your heart stops due to a problem with its electrical rhythms, and it’s no longer able to pump blood. At that point, the body is essentially dead. So what defibrillators do is shock that system into action again, essentially bringing them back to life.”
“That’s why this Act is so important,” he adds.
Busting AED myths
To believe TV and movies, using an AED is a complicated and dramatic procedure. In reality, AED devices are made to be simple and straightforward to use. Nevertheless, the adoption of AEDs has been hindered by several misconceptions, including:
Myth: AEDs will injure victims
Reality: AEDs administer an electrical shock that “reboots” a heart’s normal rhythm. Given that individuals are likely to die without this reboot, and they are unconscious when it is being administered, there is no risk of worsening the situation.
Myth: AEDs are complex to use
Reality: AED technology has come a long way. Today, AEDs are designed to guide users through the entire process with visual and audio aids. Moreover, says Andrews, “The newer automatic units we’re selling now actually delivers the shock on its own. The user isn’t required to press the button.”
Myth: Using an AED can make individuals liable for damages
Reality: The Good Samaritan Act and the Chase McEachern Act protects AED users from any liability associated with using an AED.
Myth: AEDs are expensive
Reality: AEDs have come down dramatically in price over the years. Many can be purchased for under $2,000, compared to $5 – $10k in the past. What’s more, says Andrews, “There is always going to be a cost to businesses when purchasing an AED, but $2000 is a small price to pay to save a life.”
For AED specialists like Andrews, the Defibrillator Registration and Public Access Act, 2020, has been a long time coming. Now that Ontario is taking action, the hope is that increased access to AEDs will transform the stats around cardiac arrests for the better.