Defibs (sometimes called Automated External Defibrillators or AEDs) are increasingly becoming available in workplaces and the community (public access defibrillation). With so many more AED’s available, it’s a great idea for everyone to know how to use a defibrillator.

This guide will give you a free overview of how to use a defibrillator, and includes a free video guide.

Reading and watch time: 4 minutes.

If you keep your eyes peeled for them you’ll start spotting them everywhere. It’s a great idea to know where they are because they truly are lifesavers. Have a look at our post on how to spot a defib.

Common places to find defibs include leisure centres, doctor and dental surgeries. Also, train & tube stations, airports, and shopping centres.

In rural communities, they are often available in disused telephone boxes and community halls. They may be protected by an access code, which is usually given out by ambulance control during a 999 call. 

But knowing where your nearest one is, only useful if you feel confident in how to use a defibrillator. Of course, the best way to learn is to attend a first aid course (defibs are covered as standard on all of our courses).

Even if you’ve not been trained – defibs are designed to be used by anybody in an emergency.

And it’s easy to see why we should all know how to use one. Defibs are successful in about one-third of cases (to hospital release). This is about 5 times more successful than without a defib.

Seven out of ten cardiac arrests occur outside of a hospital. Currently, in the UK, only 2-3% of these people survive. This number will increase as more of us get easy access to a defib and feel confident to use one.

How to use a defibrillator:

Watch our two-minute video to see just how easy they are to use.

Nothing to be afraid of…

Defibs deliver a shock to the heart of a casualty in cardiac arrest, but defibs won’t deliver a shock to a casualty that does not need one. The defib is super sophisticated at analysing heart rhythms, so you can’t use one if it’s not actually needed.

Although there are different brands of defibs available on the market, they all work in a similar way. The only main difference being that some require the shock button to be pressed when indicated, whereas others will shock automatically.

Take Quick Action…

If there is a defib nearby, it should be asked for at the time of calling an ambulance.

When the defib arrives it should immediately be turned on, ideally by a helper so the first aider can continue to give basic life support. Once powered on, the first aider and any helpers should follow the prompts voice as given by the defib.

Basic Life Support (CPR) effectively given immediately after sudden cardiac arrest, can double the chance of survival for a victim.

For every one minute delay in delivering a needed defib shock, a casualty’s chance of surviving a sudden cardiac arrest drops by 7-10%.

Our Top Tips…
  • Clothing (including metal under-wired bras) will need to be removed
    How to use a defibrillator

    Defib AED Defibrillator Pad Placement | SkillBase First Aid

  • The pads should be placed in the positions as indicated on the pictures on the pad packaging.
  • The chest of the casualty will need to be dry, if necessary, use clothing or a towel to dry excess moisture.
  • Excessive chest hair will need to be removed for good pad adhesion.
  • Pads should not be placed over jewellery, and any visible medication patches should be removed.
  • If the casualty is a child aged 1 to 8 years, use paediatric pads/mode if available. Place one pad in the centre of the child’s back place and the other on the centre of their chest – this will be indicated on the pads. Adult pads can usually be used on a child over 8 years.
  • If you do not have paediatric pads available, you may be able to use adult pads, you can check this with ambulance control while on the telephone.


The bottom line: Everyone should know how to use a defibrillator. Face to face defibrillator training is best, but an overview is a very good start!

Richard - Founder & Course Originator

Richard is the Founder & CEO at SkillBase First Aid


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