Our lives can change in a flash. In fact, a few of the 35,000 Canadians who suffer from cardiac arrest outside of a hospital each year survive. You could be one of them, or you could help save them. A defibrillator can make the difference between life and death, but only if it’s well-maintained.
Whether you’re a community volunteer or a hospital administrator, it helps to check the defibrillator to ensure it’s always ready to do the needful in an emergency. To this end, here’re some tips to keep it in tip-top shape:
1. Battery Checks
A defibrillator will only work if the battery is charged. Most batteries need to be replaced every two to five years, so it helps to check them regularly. If the battery is getting low, recharge it. But if it doesn’t maintain its charge or work as it should or has been in use for more than five years, a replacement should suffice.
2. Pads and Electrodes
Defibrillator pads and electrodes are designed for one-time use only. Once used, they need replacement – unused pads should be sealed. Also, pads usually have a shelf life of two to five years – depending on the model. Check the expiration date and replace them as needed.
The user manual, manufacturer’s website, or a phone call to customer service can help you determine which pads are compatible with your model. An egg timer symbol or message on the screen of your AED will usually indicate when your pads or battery are due for replacement.
Electrodes have a longer lifespan but should be checked regularly for wear and tear. They also come in a sealed packet – adults or kids’ sizes – so ensure to use the right ones. The same applies to other supporting materials – scissors, gloves, alcohol wipes, and other essentials. Check them for expiration or damage, and replace them if necessary.
3. Visual and Audio Inspection
Granted, defibrillators usually perform self-testing to ensure they’re functioning properly. But it doesn’t hurt to give them a once-over to check for physical damage. If any parts look worn or damaged, consider ordering replacements. While at it, check for frayed wires and damaged cords, and ensure that all the panels are in place and snapped shut.
Also, is the machine’s First Aid Status button illuminated green? If not, the device hasn’t been used in a while and might need troubleshooting. Check the user manual for guidance if the status indicator shows the device isn’t ready. Contact the manufacturer if the guidelines don’t help you resolve the issue.
An audio inspection should also be on the cards. Check to see if the voice guidance is clear and audible, as this feature comes in handy in an emergency, especially if you’re unfamiliar with the machine. If the voice is garbled or unclear, an upgrade would be in order.
Keep the defibrillator clean at all times. Dirt or debris can prevent the pads from adhering properly to the patient’s skin, which could delay or prevent treatment. Plus, a clean machine looks better, instilling confidence in those who might have to use it.
Use a mild cleaning solution and a soft cloth to wipe down the machine, especially nooks and crannies where dirt might accumulate. By so doing, you’ll help ensure the device is ready when most needed.
Store the device in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight or other elements. While the device can have a 15-year service life, extreme temperatures can damage and shorten its lifespan. Also, ensure it’s readily accessible in case of an emergency. You don’t want to fiddle with locks while someone’s life hangs in the balance.
That said, you may need to keep the device away from children – some models have a child-safety feature, which is a plus. Still, you may opt for a locked option to reduce the risk of vandalism – depending on your situation.
7. Professional Inspection
Although you can perform most of the maintenance tasks, having a professional give the machine a once-over – at least once a year won’t hurt. They can spot issues that might have gone unnoticed and help ensure the device is functioning properly.
Plus, they can recognize problems that a self-test might not reveal. For instance, they can conduct tests to ensure the battery holds a charge and that the device provides accurate readings. Also, remember that while Automated Electronic Defibrillators are designed for easy operation, they’re still medical devices and require proper training.
The takeaway? A little care and maintenance can ensure your life-saving equipment is always primed and ready to spring into action. So, put these tips into practice, and who knows, you could alter the course of someone’s life.