Defibrillators – Could you use one?

Would you know how to use a defibrillator? Most clients in my First Aid classes admit they wouldn’t touch it with a barge pole with common reasons why including;

  • What if I do it wrong?
  • What if I kill them?
  • I’ll get sued
  • I’m not trained

All legitimate objections to a machine that can deliver up to 1000 volts, depending on what your heart is doing at the time.

  • They’re dead already so it can’t get any worse
  • You’re highly unlikely to get sued
  • The chances are you will do a good job following the defibrillators’ simple instructions
  • Neither are the rest of us.

If you stop and think about it, if a defibrillator was too complex to use would they be dotted around the local community for public use?


What’s the chances that where you live or where you work there is one hanging out on a wall. They tend to be bright green or yellow as the photo below shows.  Next time you see one, go take a look. 

Can you read the “ TO OPEN IN AN EMERGENCY” on the photo?

 It says….

  1. Call 999
  2. Keep calm & follow instructions
  3. Tell the operator you are at location ……. On the photo there is a small black box- that’s the location code. 
  4. Tell the operator that unlock code. Then as quick as you can (and safely) get back to the emergency where the first aider is still giving CPR.   

Think you could manage that? Easy to say on this blog I know but keep focussed on your actions and less time on thinking on the emergency and how your feeling.  Remember, you are trying to save someone’s life, you’re pretty awesome right now!!

Use of a defibrillator is now a mandatory part of the syllabus for First Aid training courses.  When teaching defibrillation everyone in the class can see the how to switch it on. It’s common sense. Trust me, you will know. 

It’s then just a case of following the basic instructions (I can hear you all now – Well you would say that as a First Aid instructor).  All I can say is that when my learners operate the defib, they do a good job on the important aspects such as –

  • Correct pad placement – this is important so that the machine can accurately analyse the casualties heart rhythm. Just look at the machine’s pictures -they are probably lit up telling you where to put them.
  • Stand clear when instructed to do so by the Defib – A defib will shock a casualties heart if it detects the correct rhythm but it needs to only read one heart and if anyone else happens to be still touching the casualty, the defib is sensitive and accurate enough to pick up that heart too. So stand clear and let it do it’s job.

Defibrillators are considered expert at heart analysis. When a heart goes into something called ventricular fibrillation – sudden cardiac arrest – it kills you but the defib can stop that and shock your heart back into a nice regular beat. They also know when your heart has stopped.  This is why they are called (de)fibrillators, to take the heart out of fibrillation.

On courses, something I always highlight is the importance of people working together with this machine. There are things we can do that the defib can’t and vice versa.  So whilst it can analyse heart rhythms and send a powerful shock to reset the heart, it can’t check to see if a person has started breathing again and it can’t perform CPR if the shock doesn’t work. First Aider and defib working together.

There are lots of different models of defibrillator on the market and they all operate in much the same way – slow, clear and concise instructions, repeating the command if you haven’t completed it yet. 

It’s satisfying to hear the person on my First Aid course telling me they wouldn’t hesitate to use it once they have had a go.  The fear goes with the realisation of how simple they really are. 

Our First Aid courses teach more life skills. Take a look at the First Aid Courses here.

We understand with COVID still floating around in the community face to face courses may not sound appealing. In these cases our e-learning First Aid can be a convenient option. This will give you all of the theory topics and the remaining practical elements arranged with our tutors for face to face teaching. This will take approximately 90 minutes.    

 I don’t know about you but if I saved a life it’s time for the pub and celebrate how great I am!