How To Choose An AED for Business & Office Use

AEDs Are Essential for Office and Business Safety

AEDs (Automated External Defibrillators) are essential to the safety of an office or business. Like a fire extinguisher or first aid kit, the hope is that an AED will never have to be used, but must be kept at hand and in ready condition just in case a crisis occurs. But what is an AED and what does it do? Aren’t they too expensive for a small business to afford? Does my store, office, or company really need one?

What is an AED?

AED stands for “Automated External Defibrillator”. This is a machine that restores a malfunctioning heart to its proper beating rhythm by administering electric shocks.  Over 350,000 times a year in the United States alone, victims of all ages succumb to heart arrhythmia (sudden cardiac arrest). Many times without warning a person may collapse, stop breathing, lose consciousness and have no pulse. If not treated immediately, a victim of sudden cardiac arrest may die within a matter of minutes due to loss of blood flow to the brain.  Because of this very short span of time between collapse and likely death, it is crucial that an AED be kept onsite so that it can be deployed immediately along with CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation). 

An AED guides a rescuer to perform CPR and place special electrical pads onto a cardiac arrest victim’s body. Sensing the function of the victim’s heart, it then administers heart stabilizing shocks to literally bring the victim back to life!

Why AEDs are Essential Emergency Medical Equipment

It’s readily apparent why there should be an AED on hand in the workplace:

  • 320,000 out-of hospital SCA (sudden cardiac arrest) deaths per year
  • Life or death importance – using an AED within 3-4 minutes after SCA can lead to a 60% survival rate according to OSHA
  • No other way to treat SCA
  • No time to spare to save an SCA victim’s life
  • An AED is compact, lightweight, portable, battery operated, safe, easy to use and maintain
  • Considering its valuable, highly technical function, cost is relatively low 
  • OSHA guidelines recommend an AED 
  • State regulations require an AED in many settings. Review AED laws for your state here. 

Choosing an AED is not a Simple Task

Unlike fire extinguishers and first aid kits, AEDs are sophisticated machines that come in a wide variety of forms and at a wide range of prices. AED costs increase as the likely frequency of use and variety of settings increase, creating greater demand for ruggedness, portability, and added features in the machine. 

Below are questions to think about when deciding what AED is best for you:


  1. What is the nature of the workspace:
  • Are you in a small workspace or office? If so, one straight-forward AED Machine properly stored and displayed on a wall in a protective case will do. There is no need to invest in a heavy-duty unit, and the small group of workers who might use it can easily be made aware of its presence and how to use it if needed. 
  • As the workspace becomes larger or more varied in its nature, the quality of the AED device must rise to meet the challenges of operating in that space.  Factors such as varied floor surfaces and distances over which the AED will be carried create the need for portability and ruggedness. Temperature and moisture differences in the building, potential use in outdoor settings, transport in a vehicle or even an airplane all demand that the unit chosen be built to a higher standard. 

To help potential buyers know how tough a machine is, various tests are conducted and ratings given for each particular unit: 

  • “IP” ratings (Ingress Protection) are given to indicate how ruggedly an AED has been constructed. Basically, this rating tells how resistant a unit is to damage from exposure to dust and water. The higher the IP number, the stronger the unit, with the topmost numerical score being “68”.
  •  ”Drop tests” may be performed on an AED, typically from a height of 1 meter, to determine its ability to withstand various shocks without sustaining damage. Drop tests are used at various heights in testing electronics, packaging for sensitive products, etc.

Watch for these ratings when choosing an AED, and remember, it is not necessary to spend the extra dollars for a high-rated machine if it will be used indoors in a common office or even school environment. On the other hand, spending more for a tougher machine, if needed, is a no-brainer when it comes to a device as important as an AED.


NOTE: A protective carrying case can be purchased for any AED, either custom made for a particular machine (typically high end) or a generic model.  This increases safe transport and deployment of the AED. Each main brand offers various AED cases; a standout maker of very heavy duty custom cases is the “Shok Box” line. Purchasing a case can be a good way to protect a machine, saving money on the level of unit purchased and preserving it for the long run.

  1. Who uses the space?

AEDs can be purchased with features that accommodate differences in the people typically in their vicinity.  Both the potential SCA victim and the likely user should be considered when the AED is selected. Think about these things when making your AED choice:


  • If you are in a small office with limited staff, a basic AED will do. There is no need to spend extra money on extra ruggedness or “bells and whistles.”  All AEDs will do the job of guiding a user through the AED procedure, and will deliver shocks accurately and only when needed.
  • If your business serves small children or infants (under 55 lbs):
    • Your AED should include a “pediatric mode”. This mode is selected by use of a key or button, and special pads are included to fit a child’s torso.
    • Need for a more rugged machine and/or case is possible, since a child might be carrying the AED.
    • A daycare or school setting will likely have outdoor areas and group travel events; a second unit is recommended to be made available for these scenarios.
    • Storage in an alarm-equipped location may be needed due to the presence of children.
    • Schools for older students typically have a wide variety of settings. A number of AEDs will be needed, and should be chosen according to the areas they serve and in sufficient numbers for immediate access when needed.
  • If the people served by the AED are in some way more at risk for SCA (elderly, those with heart conditions, those practicing extreme sports)  it is advisable to have both a simpler unit available to all in the group, as well as an advanced unit to be used by trained staff. At least one of these trained employees should always be present if possible.
  • If your business serves a flow of public citizens, it is likely that a bystander may be the one to operate the AED:
    • It is helpful to have a fully automatic unit which will detect the need for shocks and automatically administer them only if and when they are needed.
    • Guided CPR is also available and more sophisticated, built-in versions are recommended for machines to be used by the public. 
    • Finally, bilingual prompts are available on some machines, and may be worth the investment for some populations. These AEDs are pre-programmed and typically switchable between English and Spanish, or English and French.
  • If you are purchasing for a large business, it may include many employees in a large and/or varied workspace, or it may serve a large cross-section of the public. Choose machines with more sophisticated capabilities:
    • Computer linkage to remote locations
    • Downloadable detailed recording of emergencies in which the AED is deployed
    • If you are buying AED units for a unique business (such as military, maritime, aviation, etc.), be sure to check for special regulations and related standards for units to be deployed.
  • If you are choosing AEDs to be deployed in the course of business by Security or Emergency Services Providers, you have available a large range of machines which are capable of performing near-hospital level functions:
    • Detection and reporting of various body functions
    • Computer linkage to remote locations
    • Downloadable detailed recording of emergencies in which the AED is deployed
    • Training versions which include versions of the device as well as supplementary materials
  1. How often is the AED likely to be used?
    Perhaps obvious but worth mentioning, the frequency of use is an important consideration. This is tied to the location and nature of the user(s). For instance, compare use in a quiet small office to use with sports teams (carried to gym and field) and/or EMT crews (frequent transport and deployment at emergency sites).
  2. What choices regarding the AED to be purchased stand out as most important?
  • Best size/weight
  • Ruggedness
  • User-friendliness
  • semi vs fully automatic
  • needed features
  • location and storage
  • ease of maintenance (incl battery life)

How Many AEDs Should I Buy for My Business?

Deciding how many AEDs are needed can be puzzling. The answer to this question is logical but not necessarily obvious, and is rooted in the fact that time is the crucial factor when it comes to rescuing a victim of Sudden Cardiac Arrest. The AHA (American Heart Association) recommends that response time be the determining factor in AED placement


“The AHA guideline is to accomplish “drop-to-shock” in 3 minutes.This means that from any location in the building where a victim may drop [due] to cardiac arrest, a responder can get from the victim to the closest AED and back, begin powering on the device and placing the pads so that a shock can be delivered in 3 minutes. The notion that response time matters makes perfect sense when you learn that a defibrillation shock delivered in 3 minutes means about a 70% chance of survival for the victim. To further illustrate this point, a shock at 8 minutes yields only a 20% chance of survival, and at 15 minutes the likelihood of revival is less than 5%.


Given that the AEDs are well-displayed, one should be placed in every building (every floor in a multi-story building). They should be easily accessible and their location marked on all posted fire emergency access maps. Outdoor locations such as athletic fields, parks, etc. should be given special consideration. Secure posts, signs, alarms, and strobe lights can be used to protect an AED and at the same time make its location easy to spot, even from a distance.

AED Unit, Supplies, and Program Management Costs
Depending on the level of ruggedness and added features, an AED typically costs between $1000 and $2500 for the machine itself. Added items such as cabinets, signs, carrying cases, extra shock pads and batteries, etc. will increase the initial cash outlay by $200 or more. Maintaining an AED typically costs about $75/year.

AED maintenance plans and event monitoring services can also be purchased at a cost around $150/year. They are typically needed only by the largest businesses with HR protocols for employee health events, by schools or other large institutions, or for medical and emergency services organizations. Those who feel they may need assistance should consider a program such as ARCH.

All but the simplest AEDs now require a doctor’s prescription for purchase; the good news is that most suppliers now provide those scripts with the AED when it is sold. One AED, the Philips HeartStart Home Defibrillator , is low in cost, extremely easy to use, and can be purchased without a prescription. It is a good selection for a small office, church, or daycare center (purchased with pediatric pads).

For more detailed information regarding AED costs and the shopping process, visit 

Best AEDs for Business & Office Use
There are many manufacturers of FDA-cleared AEDs in the US: 

  • Cardiac Science
  • Defibtech
  • HeartSine
  • Philips Healthcare
  • Physio-Control
  • ZOLL

The machines produced can be categorized by fitness for:

  • General use also known as PAD or Public Access Defibrillation
  • Professional use–basic Cardiac Life Support with semi-automatic defibrillation, for trained medical professionals
  • Devices with advanced features, adding feedback information which supports use of life-saving skills beyond the level of simple CPR and defibrillation. These are ALS devices or Advanced Life Support machines.

AED Units Offered by Major US Manufacturers, by Category:


Cardiac Science (3) PAD(+semi-auto), PRO, X $1300-2500

Defibtech (4) PAD(+semi-auto), PRO, X $1300-2300

HeartSine (3) PAD(+semi-auto),    X,   X $1250-1600

Phillips Healthcare (3) PAD         PRO, X $1250-2500

Physio-Control (5) PAD (+semi-auto), PRO, ALS $1300-9,000

ZOLL           (6) PAD(+semi-auto),  PRO, ALS $1750-9000

For an extensive information on AEDs and help with a purchase, download the AED Buyer’s Guide at

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