..but were afraid to ask!
St John Scotland has been working with communities up and down the country to help increase access to life-saving defibrillators.
While awareness and understanding is growing all the time, many people can feel unsure, or even frightened, by these mysterious-seeming devices!
Here, St John Scotland volunteer CPR and defibrillator trainer from Glasgow, Fraser Simpson, answers some common questions…
How does a defibrillator work?
Fraser: If someone is in cardiac arrest, it means their heart has stopped beating in its usual rhythm, and it has stopped pumping blood around the body. A defibrillator works by giving an electric shock to the person’s heart to kick-start it back into normal rhythm.
Do you need to have had training to be able to use a defibrillator?
No! A lot of people see defibrillators on TV hospital dramas and think ‘they look really complicated, I could never do that’. But the great thing about modern Public Access Defibrillators is they are designed to be used by anybody, even someone who’s never seen one before. All you have to do is press the ‘on’ switch and the machine will tell you what to do, so just follow its instructions.
How do I get into the defibrillator if I need to use one?
A lot of defibs you see in public places are in cabinets which protect them from cold weather and mean they can be accessed 24/7 in an emergency. If you ever need to get into one of these boxes and it’s locked, tell the ambulance service operator where you are and they will give you the code to unlock it.
Are all Public Access Defibrillators the same?
There are lots of different makes of defibrillator, but they all essentially work the same way. All you need to do is press the ‘on’ switch and follow its instructions. Some will analyse the heartbeat and provide a shock automatically, others will tell you to press a button to deliver the shock. The machine will only deliver a shock if it would be helpful. If not, it will say "no shock required" and you can continue with CPR.
Can I hurt someone by using a defibrillator?
A defibrillator will only deliver a shock if one is needed. It simply will not shock someone whose heart is working properly, so you can never hurt someone with one.
Isn’t it safer to just wait for the ambulance?
Cardiac arrest is one of those situations where you really need to act as quickly as possible. Without action, the person could die within minutes. To be most effective, you need to start CPR immediately and use a defibrillator as quickly as possible. So remember – phone 999, start CPR, ask someone to get a defib if one is available, and keep going until the ambulance arrives.