Step 8 – Place AEDs

AEDs, like fire extinguishers, should be placed in easily accessible locations where people can get to them in the event of an emergency. They have no value if they are hidden, locked in an office, or otherwise placed where they are not readily visible.

AED programs are effective largely because the devices are so easily used by people with minimal training. The first person on the scene of a cardiac arrest may not be an employee. Rather, he might be a person visiting the building for the first time. AEDs are most effective when they are used during the first few minutes after a person’s collapse. The concept of Public Access Defibrillation programs capitalizes on the fact that the first person on the scene – visitor, guest, or employee – has the greatest chance of saving a person’s life as long as he has access to the AED.

The Chain of Survival

The American Heart Association, American Red Cross, and the National Safety Council endorse the concept of the Cardiac Chain of Survival to summarize the actions that should be taken in the event of an emergency.

The first step is to notify emergency medical specialists, usually accomplished by calling 911 and relaying to the dispatcher the nature of the emergency, the steps that are being taken, and the location of the emergency. The dispatcher can then send an ambulance. The next steps cover CPR and the use of the AED with the final step being the relief of the lay rescuer by a trained paramedic or Emergency Medical Technician.

Phone Available Near the AED

It is recommended that the AED be placed near a phone so that help can be called while the AED is being retrieved. Good locations are behind a receptionist’s desk, near a front office in a school, or in a heavily traveled hallway near a bank of phones.

Concerns over thefts of AEDs are largely overstated. Over the years, people have learned that stealing fire extinguishers is counterproductive because, if a fire breaks out and no extinguisher is present, lives could be lost. The same is true of AEDs.

AEDs can be placed in cabinets similar to those used for fire extinguishers. This tends to make them more secure.
To conform to all architectural standards cabinets can be purchased as recessed, semirecessed, or flush mounted. They can also be purchased with audible alarms and automatic dialing.
In their simplest form, the unlocked cabinet door can be opened without triggering an alarm. If security of the AED is of great concern, for relatively little money, cabinets can be equipped with an alarm that sounds every time the door is opened. This serves to alert people in the general area if someone is tampering with the AED or taking it to the scene of an actual emergency. Most cabinets with alarms have a keyed shut-off so the alarm can be silenced while the AED is being checked. The most sophisticated cabinet not only sounds an alarm, but also automatically dials 911 when the cabinet door is opened. Obviously this type of cabinet kills two birds with one stone but an active telephone line must be wired to the cabinet in order for it to work.

Central Location

AEDs should be placed in central locations within a facility and it is possible that large buildings may require more than one. The rule of thumb is that AEDs should be no further than one minute away from any part of the facility. This means that, at best, a device could be at the site of the emergency in no more than two minutes (one minute to get from the victim to the AED and one minute to return). Some thought must be given to this because the most central location may not have an accessible phone nearby. Cell phones may fit the bill allowing responders to call while they are on their way to the AED. Some facilities actually provide a cell phone in the AED cabinet. Should this be a viable option, consider programming the cell phone to autodial 911 as soon as it is turned on.


Once a location is selected, steps should be taken to make sure that everyone who enters the building knows where the AED is. A variety of methods can be used. We have designed a self-stick label that works well for glass doors.

Such labels should be colorful so that they attract attention. Ours have a white space on them where the location of the AED can be written in indelible pen or printed with a label maker. The stickers below are 4.5 inches wide and 5.25 inches high. They are large enough to be seen but small enough not to obscure people’s vision when used on glass.

Post the Location

The locations of AEDs can also be posted on various bulletin boards throughout the facility. These notices can be printed on office printers on letter size paper. A heart logo with either ‘AED Location’ or ‘Defibrillator Location’ followed by the physical location of the device will direct people to it.
One other method is to put directional signs near all the fire extinguishers throughout the building. These, too, can be printed in- house but it is a good idea to laminate them before gluing them to a wall. A logo with the letters ‘AED’ and an arrow is all that is needed.

This approach capitalizes on the fact that there are many more fire extinguishers in a building than AEDs. Seeing an extinguisher and a directional sign over it pointing to the AED should be effective. Signs that are five inches by five inches are large enough but the larger the better.

Finally, some sign or symbol should be placed over the AED cabinet itself. This sign should be visible from some distance. Do not rely on the small lettering that may be printed on the glass of some cabinets, as a person must be very close to read it. The signs we use have the same logo as the door labels but measure about 7.75 inches wide and 11.5 inches high.

Of course, door labels, bulletin boards, and directional signs near fire extinguishers can be used together. Just make sure that whatever logo you use for one sign or label is used for the others. If a simple red heart is used for the doors, use it on the bulletin boards and/or the fire extinguishers as well.

One final word, don’t attempt to hide the AED from those who frequent your building under the assumption that it may frighten them. As more and more airports and shopping malls install AEDs, people are beginning to expect them. Their presence will signal that you have taken an important step in protecting their well being.

Continue to Step 9