Step 6 – Training

Instruction in the use of AEDs is part of a two to four hour training program offered by the American Heart Association, the American Red Cross, the National Safety Council and various other professional organizations.

Heartsaver AED

The American Heart Association program for the lay responder is entitled Heartsaver AED. The course teaches three basic skills : clearing a foreign body airway obstruction for victims who are choking, adult CPR, and the use of AEDs.
The course utilizes a number of slides and videotape segments to model the correct application of the skills. These segments are followed immediately by hands-on practice sessions with CPR manikins and AED training devices. A written test is also given but the real strength of the course is a series of scenarios that require students to demonstrate the skills they acquired in the course. Some instructors divide their classes into groups of four. Each student is assigned a role – observer, 911 caller, CPR rescuer, or AED rescuer. The instructor reads a short passage about a simulated emergency (age of victim, location of event, symptoms, etc.) and the students treat the victim given the roles they were assigned. This practice is excellent in getting students to work together and in demonstrating the relationship between CPR and the use of the AED. Other instructors prefer that students work alone requiring them to call for help, perform CPR, and use the AED without the help of others. Both methods are effective in giving the student confidence in using skills that are critical to the survival of a cardiac arrest victim.

The Red Cross and National Safety Council courses are very similar to the Heart Association course. Some require that CPR be learned before learning to use the AED. A link below allows you to compare the courses taught by the three organizations.


Learn CPR

All of the courses use a simplified method of CPR designed to eliminate problems that have proven troublesome in the past. In this method, the hands are placed on the sternum on an imaginary line between the nipples for chest compressions, and the student is directed to check for signs of circulation rather than checking for a pulse using the carotid artery. All three organizations realize that the easier CPR is to learn, the greater the likelihood that students will choose to apply their skills in real-life situations. No part of the course is especially difficult; CPR is the most difficult skill to retain simply because it is made up of several steps. For this reason, it has been simplified as much as possible.

The Heartsaver AED course teaches adult CPR only because most AEDs are approved for use only on children over the age of eight years or fifty-five pounds. AED skills are integrated into other courses but they tend to be longer as they provide instruction on infant and child CPR as well as adult.

Other Options for Training

Training courses may be advertised in your local newspaper or a call to your local Heart Association or Red Cross office will quickly get you information on where the course will be offered. You can also send your email address, city and state to to find the closest affiliate of the National Safety Council. There is a cost for training to cover books, materials and certificates. Often, volunteer EMTs or firemen are certified to conduct training and are willing to do so at reasonable rates. Also, check with the health or physical education teachers of your local school. Many schools integrate CPR and AED use into their health curriculum. Just be sure that whoever teaches the course is certified and experienced in doing so.
If your facility has already ordered or purchased a particular AED, ask your instructor to use an AED trainer (device used during training that does not permit a real shock) that simulates the AED that will be in your facility. While the skills are similar from one AED to another, it is always a confidence builder to get experience with the specific AED you are most likely to use.
For a comparison of the course goals and structure of AED courses taught by different organizations, click on the following link:

Refresher Training and Drills

Students who successfully complete any of the courses receive a certification card that is good for one or two years. CPR is not a skill like bicycle riding; it requires periodic practice. Once you learn the skills, you should practice even if it means using  a pillow and simulating rescue breaths and chest compressions.  DO NOT practice on family members.

Refresher courses can also be offered every couple months to keep skills sharp. Such courses may be nothing more than providing a manikin and AED trainer and asking that employees follow those steps they would if a person were in cardiac arrest.

Drills are also a way to increase the odds that people will know how to respond in the event of an emergency. Drills can be announced or unannounced and they may focus on the AED/CPR skills of an individual employee or the response of your entire facility to a simulated emergency. In their most simple form, a manikin is delivered to a location on property and the announcement is made that you have witnessed a possible cardiac emergency. Note how long it takes for a trained AED responder to arrive and evaluate the steps he follows in dealing with the emergency. Make the situation as non threatening as possible and announce beforehand that responders are not expected to perform the way they did on the day they finished the AED course. The purpose of these drills is to bring individual responders back to proficiency if their skills have slipped.

In facility-wide drills, an announcement is made that a simulated cardiac arrest has been witnessed at some preset location. A manikin is placed on the floor at that spot and training AEDs are placed on top of the cabinets or near the real AEDs. From that point, a few people can be placed around the facility to evaluate how well the emergency plan works. The focus is on the system rather than on the individual rescuer’s skills.

Continue to Step 7