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Employee Health: Saving Hearts and Lives with AEDs

Columnist: Ramona Faith
February, 2020 Issue

Ramona Faith
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Cardiovascular disease—also known as heart disease—is the leading cause of death in the U.S. Half of all heart disease deaths are caused by a sudden cardiac arrest (SCA), which can happen anytime, anywhere, at any age. Many victims have no prior history of heart disease and are stricken without warning. Sudden cardiac arrest is the No. 1 cause of death in the workplace, killing 10,000 American workers every year.

National trends don’t deviate from these observed in the North Bay. For every 10 Sonoma County residents, three have heart disease, which means nearly 149,000 people are at risk.

In Sonoma County, health-care costs related to heart disease total $570 million every year. When heart disease leads to a SCA, it can lead to a lifetime of debilitation and cost—for individuals, families and businesses.

February is American Heart Month. Many businesses join the movement by supporting National Wear Red Day, encouraging employees to wear red in effort to raise awareness that cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death among women. These are important educational campaigns, but businesses can do even more to protect the hearts of their most important assets – their employees.

What if you knew there was a simple, affordable tool for the workforce that could help reduce the risk of death and disability from SCA? There is such a tool: the Automated External Defibrillator (AED).

What is an AED?

An AED is a portable medical device designed to analyze the heart rhythm and deliver an electric shock to victims of SCA to restore the heart rhythm to normal. Having an AED onsite is an easy way to drastically improve the safety of your workforce in the event of a cardiac emergency.

AEDs are specifically designed for use by nonmedical personnel and are a critical part of a business’ emergency response plan. AEDs save precious treatment time, and can improve survival rates since they can be used before emergency medical help arrives. What’s more, AEDs are compact, lightweight, portable, battery-operated, safe, easy to use and available in dual language (Spanish-English). 

Does an AED replace the need for CPR?

AEDs are a great first step, but the combined action with cardio pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) increases survival rates. CPR training should also be considered as part of the emergency plan, and there are programs that train in both.

How do you make sure AEDS are always rescue ready?

Making sure your AED is accessible, functioning and fully charged—also known as rescue ready—is key. AEDs that are locked away in closets, or back offices, unbeknownst to staff are of little use during an emergency. Most AED batteries and electrical pads expire within two to four years, and must be routinely replaced.

Fortunately, there are local low-cost programs to ensure your AED is in tip-top shape. Our HeartSafe Community program works with businesses to ensure their AEDs are located in the most logical and appropriate location for an emergency. It also develops a cardiac emergency response plan and team for businesses to use internally to identify staff roles and responsibilities, and can help establish a protocol for conducting quick monthly AED checks and the ordering of new pads and batteries when needed. HeartSafe Community also offers CPR certification and training for staff and can check that your AED is meeting current federal and state legislation.

Are there legal risks to using an AED?

Many businesses are concerned about liability in having or deploying an AED. California’s Good Samaritan Law and California Senate Bill 658 protect businesses from liability in using CPR, or deploying an AED in attempt to save someone’s life. The Good Samaritan Law also applies if you have an AED and it isn’t used during an emergency.

What’s the surprising benefit of an AED?

Investing in an AED and CPR is a testament to your commitment to employees in supporting and promoting health and safety at the workplace. Not only are you helping keep your employees safe, CPR and AED training can help foster and support a culture of health. Many businesses use these programs as touchstones for their own company wellness programs. The training your staff receives, both in CPR and AED usage, extends beyond the walls of the business. Employees are empowered with skills that can save lives in their communities.

Protect your company’s most important asset—employees—by equipping your company with an AED. They save lives, are easy to use, and reflect a commitment to employee safety, health and wellness.

Ramona Faith is the CEO at the Petaluma Health Care District, which offers the American Heart Association-affiliated HeartSafe Business initiative serving the entire North Bay. HeartSafe Community is the only local distributer of dual language (Spanish-English) AEDs and has a Spanish speaking CPR instructor. For information on its AED sales, installation and maintenance program coupled with CPR certification and trainings, visit or call  (707) 766-9226.




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