AEDs are becoming more prevalent in public spaces like malls, gyms, schools, churches and other places where people gather. The sad truth, however, is most sudden cardiac arrest occurs at home where the patient is reliant on family members or caregivers to call 911 and begin CPR. Should AEDs be a part of every home’s emergency response plan? Should there be one next to the first aid kit or fire extinguisher in every home? While many people associate sudden cardiac arrest with the elderly or infirm, the truth is it can happen to anyone at any time.
Is one AED any better than another for home use?
AEDs come in all different sizes, shapes and price ranges. The good news is they all work basically the same way and save lives. So is there one, in particular, you should choose for your home if you decide to get one due to a loved one’s medical condition, if you decide to share one with your immediate neighbors, or if you just feel better knowing you are always prepared to rescue someone in sudden cardiac arrest? The short answer is no. No AED is any better than another.
Every AED walks you through a rescue with audible and visual prompts and directions. Their use is simple to learn, even if you are not able to take a CPR certification course. (We always recommend CPR/AED training, however, to ensure confidence in your abilities should an emergency occur). So the two most common considerations when choosing an AED are the features included and price.
How much can you expect to pay?
The average AED price range is from $1,245 to around $2,500 with most consumer units falling below $1,600, depending on the features which are important to you. Some AEDs have immediate real-time feedback on the effectiveness of your CPR (HeartSine 450P, ZOLL AED Plus, Cardiac Science G5 with iCPR electrode pads). One AED has a video screen which actually shows you how to do CPR (Defibtech View). Another allows you to switch back and forth from English to Spanish with a touch of the button (Cardiac Science G5). And a third brand gives you the option of a one-piece Z-shaped pad configuration with hand placement guides and CPR feedback (ZOLL Plus AED). Some are smaller and lighter than others (HeartSine AEDs, Philips OnSite) which are larger (Defibtech, ZOLL, Physio-Control). For a full listing and comparison of all the AEDs and the features of every AED offered through AED Superstore, reference our Ultimate AED Buyer’s Guide.
Who would want or need a home AED?
Anyone: The sobering truth is anybody could need an AED at home, because SCA can strike anyone at any time, even healthy people who have no history of heart trouble. If you just want to feel more secure in your ability to save those around you, an AED may be a good addition to your home’s safety equipment.
At-Risk People: Those considered at risk for cardiac events, or their loved ones, may want to evaluate the benefits of having an AED in their home. If you have had a previous heart attack, received bypass or stent surgery, are known to have a syndrome such as long QT, Marfan’s, or Wolff-Parkinson-White.
People in Rural or Isolated Areas: If your home is in a rural location or a place that might be hard to reach during certain times of year (such as due to snow in the winter), an AED might make sense. Every minute counts, and by the time the paramedics arrive, it may be too late.
Does insurance cover the cost of AEDs?
In most cases, health insurance does not cover the cost of an AED, much like they do not cover the cost of a first aid kit, even though the two are health-related. There are rare cases in which insurance companies have helped cover a portion of the cost, but it is not common. Always check with your insurance company if you or someone in your family is considered “at risk” because it never hurts to inquire as to whether they will assist in the purchase.
Storing your AED
If you choose to place an AED in your home, it should be kept indoors in a location where it’s easy to find and easy to maintain. Monthly checks to ensure it is ready to rescue are recommended, and the AED itself will do more frequent checks and typically alert you with either a visual or audio clue something is amiss.
If you place your AED in the car, it should be kept away from direct sunlight in the summer months and in the cabin (not the trunk) of the car during the winter to keep it from extreme temperatures. During extreme weather (colder than 32°F or hotter than 122°F) it should be brought inside the home and not stored in the car.
Traveling with your AED
Traveling by air with your AED may be tricky. Most airlines will allow you to bring your defibrillator in your checked or carry on baggage with the battery removed from the device and placed in your carry on. Once it leaves your hands, you will be in the airport where there are many AEDs positioned throughout the facility. There are also AEDs on every US commercial aircraft which carry more than 30 passengers. The best advice is to check with your airline before arriving at the airport so you have your AED properly packed for the journey.
Final thoughts on in-home AEDs
As with any science, defibrillation is evolving. While units are not exactly pocket-sized right now, who is to say what may be in development by manufacturers and entrepreneurs? In the AED Superstore Resource Center article What Could the Future of Automated External Defibrillators Look Like? the possibility of smaller, lighter, more “personal” AEDs was examined. Until we all have one in our back pocket, however, giving ourselves and our loved ones the best chance for survival by having a unit in the home is a great idea.