Does your Scout unit have an AED?

When it comes to helping someone who has experienced cardiac arrest, the presence of an automated external defibrillator (AED) can be the difference between life and death.

AEDs are available in many public places. There’s a good chance that your nearby government building or school has one or more. They’re also common in airports, shopping malls, sports arenas and other community spaces.

Most emergency medical responders carry them at all times.

In short: AEDs are an important tool for anyone who wants to Be Prepared.

And just like other tools, they require the right preparation and knowledge to make use of them.

What is an AED?

An AED is a small, portable medical device that generates a shock that can jolt an irregularly beating heart into beating correctly. An AED is part of a larger system that includes accessories such as a battery, pad electrodes and if applicable, an adapter.

Though the AED gives verbal instructions to users, training on proper use of an AED is still recommended.

Imagine having a doctor or nurse at your side while performing chest compressions. It’d still be a good idea to practice ahead of time, right?

How do you use an AED?

From the Mayo Clinic:

  • Check to see if the person is breathing and has a pulse.
  • If you cannot feel a pulse and the person is not breathing, call for emergency help. If you’re alone, call 911 or emergency services first to make sure help is on the way. If another person is present, one person can call 911 while the other prepares the AED. If other people can help, one person can begin CPR while the AED is being prepared.
  • Turn on the AED. The AED gives step-by-step voice instructions.
  • When the pads are in place, do not touch the person while the AED measures the person’s heartbeat. If the machine thinks a shock is needed, it tells the user to stand back and push a button to deliver the shock. The AED only delivers a shock when needed.
  • Start CPR. If CPR is still needed, the AED will guide users through that as well. The process can be repeated as needed until emergency medical teams take over.

How do I acquire an AED?

AEDs are not cheap. The good news is, there are grants and ways to get them at a much more reasonable price. Search online for discount or free AED programs near you.

I know of one Scout troop in Texas that acquired a free AED … and used it a few years later to save a life.

Do AEDs require routine maintenance?

Yes. Click here to learn more.

Does having an AED replace the need for first aid and CPR training?


AEDs are a tool meant to enhance the CPR training that your unit already has.

First-aid training is critical. It likely always will be.

Does my unit need an AED?

It’s definitely a discussion worth having.

Read this article from the Mayo Clinic for more information.

If you meet at a school or church, there might already be an AED nearby. Make sure everyone present knows where it is, and remind people about it regularly.

To ensure readiness for use in the case of a sudden cardiac arrest, understand how to care for and maintain your AED, and ensure AED inspections are done regularly.

Photo by Getty Images

About Aaron Derr 468 Articles
Aaron Derr is the senior editor of Scout Life and Scouting magazines, and also a former Cubmaster and Scouts BSA volunteer.