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Defibrillators - Frequently Asked Questions

Our FAQs will help you to find answers to your questions about defibrillators and accessories, quickly and easily.

What is a defibrillator?

A defibrillator is a device that can be used to shock the heart back into a normal rhythm during cardiac arrest. Those available to the public work automatically and provide instructions and will not deliver a shock unless one is necessary.  

Why is a defibrillator important? 

30,000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests happen each year in the UK, and 9 out of 10 are fatal. Investing in a defibrillator from the British Heart Foundation could be the difference between life and death and will help us keep hearts beating for longer. 

How do I know if I need one? 

Having a defibrillator on your premises is a relatively small investment that could one day save someone’s life, whether in a residential, community or workplace setting. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) recommend that certain businesses have defibrillators, whilst others should perform a needs assessment to identify if they should have one. This assessment includes: 

  • consideration of how many people may be in, near, or passing through your workplace (as the likelihood of cardiac arrest increases with more people) 
  • the age of those people (as age is a risk factor for heart disease) 
  • the nature of the location (as remoteness may affect emergency service response times and the availability of alternatives). 

Some businesses choose to have defibrillators on their premises regardless of a needs assessment, because they want to demonstrate their commitment to keeping their colleagues, customers and local community safe. As well as the BHFthe Resuscitation Council UK also recommend that they are available. 

What type of defibrillator do I need? 

Defibrillators vary with some providing more protection from the elements than others (making them more suitable for harsher environments), some containing additional features such as LCD display screens and some providing real time CPR feedback. The cost of each defibrillator also varies depending on their featuresDeciding on the best defibrillator for you really depends on your environment and the budget you have. Get in touch with us using the contact us details below and we can help guide you on which defibrillator will be most suitable for you.  

What’s the difference between a PAD and an AED? 

AED stands for Automated External Defibrillator – this automatically analyses the heart rhythm and provides a shock during a cardiac arrest where required. 

PAD stands for Public Access Defibrillator – a defibrillator that is accessible to the public, ideally freely and not in a locked cabinet. 

What's the difference between an automatic and a semi-automatic defibrillator? 

Semi-automatic defibrillators will ask the rescuer to press a button to deliver a shock if needed and when prompted. Fully automatic defibrillators, on the other hand, automate this process and will deliver the shock automatically if needed. And it will tell the rescuer a shock is about to be delivered so that they can make sure they aren't touching the casualty. 

How many do I need? 

Just having one defibrillator could be the difference between life and death. But if you are an organisation with multiple sites, or based in an office with several floors, our team can advise you on the right number to maximise your chances of saving a life but at a budget you can afford. 

Does my defibrillator need maintaining? 

Defibrillators are designed to be low maintenance. We recommend that someone check the defibrillator once a week to ensure it hasn't been used and is in good working condition with sufficient pad and battery life, but they don't require any ongoing maintenance. If you are budgeting ahead then it's worth knowing that the pads and battery will need to be replaced every five years and this will cost approximately £250. And pads will need to be replaced if they are used to treat a cardiac arrest. 

How long do they last? 

Defibrillator batteries and pads have a standby life and a maximum number of shocks, this varies between each model. For example, most defibrillators come with a battery and pads with a standby life of 5 years. Please note that pads will also need to be replaced if used to treat a cardiac arrest. Defibrillators and their batteries are also covered by warranties, which again will vary between devices from 4 - 10 years. 

What accessories do I need? 

Defibrillators from the BHF come with all the necessary components you need to be able to treat a sudden cardiac arrest straight away, but you can get additional items such as a cabinet, brackets and signage from our online shop. 

If you are budgeting ahead then it's worth knowing that the pads and battery will need to be replaced every five years and this will cost approximately £250. And pads will need to be replaced if they are used to treat a cardiac arrest. 

Do I need a CPR kit? 

We provide a FREE CPR Training Kit with every defibrillator which consists of an inflatable manikin and a DVD that teaches CPR in under an hour. These kits can also be purchased separately on our online shop if you find you need more to aid CPR training in a larger group. 

Do I need to register it? 

Registering your defibrillator on The Circuit means it will be connected to a network of defibrillators and is linked to ambulance services across the country. Having your defibrillator registered means it will be more accessible and can help save more lives. The Circuit will also help you look after and maintain your defibrillator. You’ll receive regular reminders to check your defibrillator is ready to use and the pads are in date, be able to connect with other guardians in your area should you wish and even organise someone to check it if you’re likely to be away on holiday. 

Do I need training to use one? 

No, as defibrillators give clear, verbal instructions on how to use the device. There are images on the packets for the chest pads that show you where to place them, which doesn’t have to be exact, and sometimes also on the device itself. Being untrained in using a defibrillator shouldn’t be a barrier to using one. Lives have been saved by untrained people giving defibrillator shocks to people in cardiac arrest. 

We provide a free CPR Training Kit with every defibrillator which consists of an inflatable manikin and a DVD that teaches CPR in under an hour. Defibrillators are designed to be easy to use and so don't require any additional training and we have videos that show the defibrillator in use that can also be viewed by potential responders to help them become familiar with using a defibrillator. 

How do I buy a defibrillator?

You can purchase a defibrillator and any of the accessories directly from our online shop using a credit or debit card. Our defibrillator and acccessories range can be found here. If you are a business and would like to place an order by invoice, please get in touch with us using the details below and we can arrange this for you. (Please get in touch too if you wish to discuss volume discounts for very large orders.) Alternatively, you may also be eligible for a part-funded defibrillator if you can demonstrate your area needs one. You can check if you are eligible here.

Our premises now has a new layout and a one-way system for staff. Should we move our AED? 

Conduct an assessment to consider the best location, making sure the AED(s) are still as accessible as possible and not obstructed by barriers and screens. If you do move your AED, make sure staff know the new location. 

Our office has been closed for a year due to the pandemic. What do we need to do when we return? 

Make sure you check your defibrillator is still there and that everything is working correctly. You may discover that it needs some maintenance such as new pads. You may also decide to put your defibrillator in a new location if the layout of your office has changed due to restrictions.  

Lots of our staff now work from home. What does this mean? 

You could consider funding an AED for sections of employees’ local community. But also make sure that, if you have fewer staff on site, those that are there know where the AED is, and as many of your staff who are on site know how to use it and how to do CPR. You can also do a demonstration in how to use an AED on Zoom, so staff feel confident when they return and you can complete socially distanced training. 

Why should I buy one from the BHF? 

We’re an organisation you can trust, informed by world class medical expertise and research.  You’ll get expert guidance, the right package, a free CPR training kit and free delivery and returns. Your investment in a defibrillator will help save and improve lives by funding our research into heart and circulatory diseases. 

More about defibrillators 

Find out more about defibrillators including the steps to take when someone is having a cardiac arrest and how to apply for a part funded defibrillator. 

Contact us 

To get in touch with any other queries you may have or to place an order please call 01254 277856, 9 am to 5 pm, Monday to Friday or please fill out this form and we'll reply between 9 am to 5 pm, Monday to Friday. Alternatively, you can email us on defibenquiries@bhf.org.uk

Defibrillator FAQs