How defibrillators in schools can help save lives

Web Team | 29th April 2019

More than 30,000 cardiac arrests happen in the UK every year. They affect people of all ages, including 12 people per week of people under 35. Furthermore, 270 children suffer from cardiac arrests every year while on school premises and having defibrillation technology on site seriously improves survival rates.


Although the HSE (Health, Safety and Environment) Standards Agency offer little information or praise for the defibrillator, it is one of the most directly life-saving devices in medical history. This incredible technology, when administered correctly, has the potential to rescue cardiac arrest patients from the brink of death- and this includes students in schools.


Schools are like any other kind of business, meaning the employer is responsible for the safety of all employees (staff and pupils). This usually means that the head teacher or trustee is responsible for any accidents or fatalities that occur on school premises.


What Are Defibrillators?


Defibrillators, or to call them by their long name, Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs), are a device designed specifically for (effectively) jumpstarting the heart after a cardiac arrest. During this medical emergency, the heart becomes fibrillated; that is, the heart cells behave in such a way that they each behave like individual pacemakers with their own rhythm. This throws the heart’s natural rhythm off kilter, and causes an irregular or unnaturally sped up the heartbeat.


Defibrillators comprise of electrodes places on the chest that feed into the processor. The electrodes take a scan of the heart to assess whether it needs defibrillating or not. If it does, the processor activates an electrical charge which is passed through the heart, forcing the cells to fall back into rhythm.


This method of restarting the heart’s natural rhythm is not fail-safe, but the risk of death from cardiac arrest is significantly reduced if you use a defibrillator. Read on for some striking facts about cardiac arrests and defibrillators in the UK.


What Difference Does a Defibrillator Make?


Upon suffering a cardiac arrest, a patient’s chance of survival drops by up to 10% for every minute they are left untreated. If a defibrillator is used within the first 3-5 minutes of the cardiac arrest, the chances of survival are greatly increased by up to 70%.


Once the emergency services have been called, there is always a waiting time, during which the patient may enter a coma and die. The early moments after a cardiac arrest are crucial; this is when defibrillators fulfill their role. They are easy to operate and can quite literally be the difference between life and death for cardiac arrest patients.


How to Use a Defibrillator


AEDs are designed to be easy for anyone to use, even if they haven’t had First Aid training. If you’re undertaken First Aid training, you’ll know how to use a defib; if not, the British Heart Foundation offers a comprehensive yet straightforward guide on how to operate a defibrillator. The easiest way to learn is by watching the video.


Where Can You Find Defibrillators in Public?


There are numerous defibrillators stationed in public places that are free for you to use should the need arise. Spaces that usually house defibrillators include:


  • Railway stations
  • Airports
  • Leisure centres
  • Schools
  • Community centres
  • Banks
  • Courtrooms
  • Shopping centres


Getting defibrillators for schools is a straightforward process and requires little money in the grand scheme of things. Your average AED costs around £1000 but could save lives as well as money in the long run. The government has a comprehensive guide on buying and installing AEDs specifically within a school environment.


If a pupil or staff member at school suffers a cardiac arrest, the first thing you should do is call the emergency services. If you’re unsure of the nearest defibrillator, they will be able to guide you to the nearest one to use. After making this call, CPR must be administered. If there is no response after performing CPR, the defibrillator should be used. If administered within the first few minutes, defibrillation might just save their life.