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Prepare your employees on how to respond to sudden cardiac arrest

Most Americans spend more than half of their waking hours at work, making employee safety a crucial component of corporate culture. Small businesses pride themselves on truly caring about their employees – and what better way to show how much you care than protecting employees from America’s single leading cause of death: Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA).

SCA claims the lives of more than 400,000 U.S. citizens each year across all age brackets – that is more than breast cancer, motor vehicle accidents, murder, stroke, prostate cancer, and leukemia - combined. In addition, the risk of SCA increases with age, and with studies predicting the number of workers over the age of 65 to soar through 2020, the chance on an SCA occurring in an office environment is not only very real, but increasingly likely. SCA disturbs the heart’s rhythm, causing a cessation of blood flow through the body. Unlike a heart attack, which comes with a number of recognizable symptoms, SCA tends to strike without warning, and can happen to anyone, anywhere, at any time – making it vastly important that workplaces are prepared to combat this extremely prevalent but severely underappreciated health risk.

Studies prove that when an Automated External Defibrillator (AED) is employed within three minutes of a collapse, SCA survival rates can exceed 70 percent – an impressive increase from the national survival rate, which frighteningly resides at less than seven percent. AEDs today are lightweight, portable, and easy to use. With step-by-step voice and visual prompts, anyone at your place of business can have the tools necessary to save a life. In fact, studies have shown that even untrained school children are able to properly use the devices. Importantly, AEDs are very safe and will not enable a shock to anyone who does not need one.

Despite their ease of use and the fact that a recent Harris Interactive survey found that 1 out of every 2 Americans now expects to find AEDs in office buildings, all too often, when an SCA emergency occurs, businesses are unequipped and ill-prepared to react and save a life.

Although having the device is the first step to successfully combatting SCA, it is not the AED that will save a life – it is the person who picks up the device and properly uses it who truly does the saving. Creating and implementing a Cardiac Emergency Response Program ensures that should an SCA occur in your small business, employees are prepared to help a colleague in need. In order to effectively implement this program, consider following the below advice to safeguard your employees.


Do consult with an expert

Understandably, your primary focus is on your own business, and you may not be well versed in AEDs. Fortunately, there are professionals who can assist you with starting and maintaining an effective AED program, minimizing your financial and time requirements.

Do assess the facility

As a single AED can cover a rather large area, most small businesses need only one or two devices. Nevertheless, it is important to ensure that devices are properly located and key site and staffing features are properly addressed. Professional assistance can make this process easy and oftentimes, quickly pay for itself via savings in AED acquisition costs.

Do train employees in CPR and AEDs

While AEDs are easy to use, training in advance of an event will help to ensure the best possible response and result. Additionally, most states require AED owners to train some of their staff in AED/ Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) use. Many employees view this training as a benefit as it is portable and can be used outside of the workplace to help a family member or other loved one. The training is also simple and can be accomplished with experienced professionals coming onsite. Many states also allow use of online alternatives, which provide similar quality of instruction with lower costs and logistical requirements.

Do maintain devices

Often times, businesses will install an AED and fail to check the battery, simply because the device has not been used. In order to ensure that an AED is ready when needed and preserve the Good Samaritan protections that each state extends to AED owners, it is important to regularly check the devices. While doing this is not difficult, reputable companies offer a number of tools and services that make the process even easier, providing peace of mind to small businesses that should an emergency occur, the AED is in working order.

Do comply with existing laws and regulations

Each state has Good Samaritan protections in place for AED owners and users. While the specifics vary by state, there are obligations that customarily apply, such as notifying your local EMS provider. In order to ensure the benefit of provided protections and minimize liability, it is important to adhere to the regulations applicable in your jurisdiction.


Do not overpay

All businesses are focused on finding ways to contain costs, and no one wants to pay more than they need to. AEDs are no different, and it is important to recognize that there are many options available in the market. As a benchmark, all program costs (AED, Training, and Program Management Tools) should average about $3 or less per day over the useful life of the device.

Do not fail to communicate

Time is of the essence when SCA strikes, and it is important that assistance is provided as quickly as possible. Appreciating this, a sound communication plan is essential to a life-saving AED program. Effective and regular communication of roles is vital to ensuring that employees understand what to do should an SCA take place on site, and can make the difference between life and death.

Do not settle for a one-size-fits-all program

All small businesses are different – each has its own mission and set of goals. While a one-size-fits-all approach may work well for your choice of copiers, it is not a suitable able approach for your AED program. Your program needs to reflect the unique characteristics and qualities of your business – ranging from the physical layout of your site to your employee and customer profile.

Do not put your brand at risk

Any loss of human life is tragic, and death in the workplace has both an immediate and lasting impact on a business – especially small businesses with fewer employees. An onsite fatality can adversely affect a company on numerous levels - emotional / psychological, productivity, and financial.

Being unprepared to handle an SCA emergency can destroy a brand and likely will damage the morale of employees and the faithfulness of customers. On the other hand, if a business is appropriately equipped to handle a health emergency and a life is saved, the brand benefits are unparalleled, and employees and customers may become more invested than ever in the success of the company.

Do not be afraid to save a life

AEDs are easy to use, and Good Samaritan laws protect those who take action to help someone in need. However, without proper training, some people think that calling 9-1-1 is a practical solution. Unfortunately, with the odds of survival dropping 10 percent as each minute passes, waiting for EMS response will result in death in the vast majority of circumstances. Proactively taking action at your business is the most effective means of protecting your employees and visitors from SCA.

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Creating and executing a plan to install and maintain an effective Cardiac Emergency Response Program in the workplace gives small businesses the peace of mind to know that when an SCA emergency occurs, they are equipped with the first line of defense – a workforce prepared to take action and, ultimately, help save a colleague’s life.

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John EhingerCEO

John Ehinger has more than two decades of experience in risk management and organizational preparedness, and understands the challenges that small businesses face every day. He can offer unique insight on the issues of SCA, AED accessibility and...

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