Provincial health ministry currently developing regulations
In Canada, more than 40,000 people per year die of sudden cardiac arrest.
This is one person every 12 minutes, and over 100 people per day.
When an automated external defibrillator (AED) is readily available, a person’s chance of survival goes from five per cent with CPR alone to 75 per cent with an AED and CPR together.
In evaluating the different problems in our country, sudden cardiac arrest is a problem for which we have a solution already. The issue has simply been that we have not acted to ensure that AEDs are readily available when needed.
Ontario’s Bill 141
Bill 141, the Defibrillator Registration and Public Access Act, 2020, received royal assent in Ontario in June, and will increase public access to life-saving AEDs.
Many lives will be saved as a result of this bill. The bill is currently with the Ministry of Health to develop the necessary regulations.
As a result of this new legislation, AEDs will soon be required:
- in public premises
- in other designated premises
- to be installed in the correct locations
- to have appropriate signage
- to be maintained and tested
- to be accompanied by training
- to be registered with 911.
Many public buildings already have AEDs. This legislation will also ensure that buildings have the correct number of AEDs in the correct locations with the proper signage.
In the past, people have often just added one unit and considered that it was sufficient. Many buildings currently do not have enough AEDs and some units are even hidden away and not accessible.
Manitoba is the only other province to have this law in place, while British Columbia is working on similar legislation.
Training is critical
Like any piece of equipment, maintenance and training are very important.
It is imperative that the AED stay in good working order and that people know how to use them when needed. A person does not need to have received formal training to use an AED, but it may help them to be more comfortable using an AED and they may act more quickly and confidently as a result.
By having AEDs registered with 911, dispatchers will be able to tell the caller where the closest AED is to their location.
Sadly, there have been many instances where an AED was close by, but the caller or dispatcher were not aware.
Importance of AEDs
The reason that it is so critical for AEDs to be in buildings is that a person who experiences sudden cardiac arrest only has approximately 10 minutes to survive.
With each minute that passes a person’s chance of survival goes down by 10 per cent that defibrillation is delayed. After three minutes a person’s brain starts to die due to lack of oxygen.
The Heart and Stroke Foundation recommends a rapid collapse-to-shock goal of three minutes to give the victim the greatest chance of survival. It would be great if EMS was able to arrive in time to help most people who are experiencing sudden cardiac arrest, but logistically this is simply not possible.
AED technology has improved significantly over the past 20 years. Some newer units actually provide real-time CPR feedback to tell the rescuer if they are doing CPR correctly and if not advise them on what to change.
One new unit even allows the rescuer to push a button to switch between an adult or child rescue. Previously, companies would need to purchase separate adult and child pads and switch them in a rescue as necessary.
Prices on AEDs have continued to decrease and most units now cost less than $2,000. AEDs are very simple to use and tell the user exactly what to do with visual and/or audible instructions.
People need not worry about hurting someone when using an AED. The unit is able to analyze a person’s heart rhythms to determine if a shock is needed. An AED will not shock a normal heart rhythm.
People in the first aid industry have been lobbying for years for AEDs to become required. This bill is the first step towards having AEDs required in all buildings similar to fire extinguishers.
Amazingly, many people already know how to use AEDs because first aid/CPR training programs started including AED training as part of their programs years ago.
Thankfully the government is now catching up with this current legislation.
By making AEDs more accessible many lives will be saved. It may even be yours.
Martin Andrews is president of Vita First Aid in Barrie, Ont.