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Questions about AEDs

An AED, or automated external defibrillator, is a portable, battery-operated device that automatically diagnoses a life-threatening heart rhythm known as ventricular fibrillation (VF). VF results in sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) in which the heart stops pumping blood. The AED advises the operator to deliver an electrical shock, or defibrillation, the most definitive treatment for reversing ventricular fibrillation.

The sooner an electrical shock can be delivered to someone suffering from SCA, the greater the chance that person will survive. With simple voice and visual commands, AEDs are designed to be easy to use for the lay person. AEDs are safe and will not shock anyone who is not in this fatal heart rhythm.

No. AEDs are designed so that they will only shock a person whose heart rhythm is within specific life threatening parameters. Individuals who have a normal heart rhythm will not be shocked. All the operator needs do is verify that no one else is touching the patient. Most current models of manual defibrillators deliver a relatively low amount of energy. Therefore, the amount of energy delivered to the patient is unlikely to hurt a person who is touching the patient.

Yes. The Revised Code of Washington, or RCW 70.54.310(2)(d) states, "the person or entity who acquires a defibrillator shall notify the local emergency medical services organization about the existence and the location of the defibrillator." For AED devices placed in King County, this is accomplished by completing a site registration form.

Good Samaritan laws grant immunity to volunteers who assist strangers in emergency situations, including use of an AED on another person. These laws vary from state to state but generally limit or eliminate the liability of a volunteer rescuer. The AED legislation allows a person or entity, owner and physician who acquires an AED limited immunity from civil liability, especially for any individual who uses an AED as a Good Samaritan. Specific Good Samaritan legislation in the State of Washington states that: "Any person, including but not limited to a volunteer provider of emergency or medical services, who without compensation or the expectation of compensation renders emergency care at the scene of an emergency or who participates in transporting, not for compensation, therefrom an injured person or persons for emergency medical treatment shall not be liable for civil damages resulting from any act or omission in the rendering of such emergency care or in transporting such persons, other than acts or omissions constituting gross negligence or willful or wanton misconduct."

Anyone can use an AED in the event of a sudden cardiac arrest (SCA). AEDs are designed to be used by the public and do not require a medical background. Each AED provides step by step audio instruction to walk you through the process.

Anyone can purchase an AED with a medical prescription from a licensed physician or osteopath. For residents of King County, WA, medical authorization and oversight are provided at no cost by the medical director for King County EMS or the Seattle Fire Department. A medical prescription can be requested from this site, authorizing the purchase of an AED.

For private residents and for-profit entities, do a web-based search for "AED manufacturers". Public Health – Seattle & King County cannot endorse nor recommend one device over another.

For state and local agencies, non-profit organizations and colleges, Washington State has negotiated a reduced AED pricing. For details, please contact Laura Miccile, CPR/PAD Program Manager, at 206-477-8664 or at You may also use our online contact form.

Medical Direction is written documentation or agreement from a physician or osteopath to provide medical oversight for the use of a device purchased by a public entity or lay person.

The role of the medical director is to provide medical leadership, ensure the program is medically sound, oversee medical care that is rendered through the program, ensure skill maintenance, and assume responsibility for the clinical conduct and operation of the program.

King County can provide a Medical Direction for oversight to a person or entity, within King County, at no cost to the acquirer. A request for medical direction can be submitted online, or by contacting Laura Miccile, CPR/PAD Program Manager, at 206-477-8664 or at

A prescription is written documentation obtained from a licensed physician or osteopath to purchase an AED. This is similar to a prescription you would receive from your physician for medication.

Medical direction is written documentation or agreement from a physician to provide medical oversight for the use of a device purchased by a public entity or lay person. The difference is a prescription allows you to purchase a device whereas medical direction provides oversight by a physician to use a device. King County can provide both the prescription and medical direction to a person or entity, within King County, at no cost to the acquirer.

AEDs don't work if you can't find them. Registering an AED with King County EMS allows 911 dispatchers to view all registered AEDs in the county. If a 9-1-1 call is made from a site that has an AED registered, the dispatcher can remind and direct the caller to its location, ensuring the device is quickly retrieved and applied.

There are a number of businesses and agencies that provide CPR and AED training in King County. Your local fire department, hospital, or community center is a good place to start, as they may offer CPR and AED training. In addition, there are several CPR & AED businesses locally that can provide this training. If you need assistance finding or selecting a training program, contact the King County EMS CPR/PAD Program Manager at 206-477-8664.

A site visit can be provided either by your local fire department or King County EMS to discuss:

  • AED needs
  • AED placement recommendations
  • AED access guidelines
  • Training guidelines
  • Policies and procedures
  • Assistance with completing AED documentation requirements

To arrange a site visit, contact your local fire department or the CPR/PAD Program Manger at 206-477-8664 or

If an AED is used for a cardiac emergency, the following steps should be incorporated into your AED procedures:

  • Please contact King County EMS as soon as possible at 206-296-4693 or, whenever the AED is opened and applied to a person- even if no shock was delivered. Notify them that your AED was used and needs a download. If you used an AED management company, please contact EMS first. This is an important step to take in helping EMS to improve care and treatment from sudden cardiac arrest, and thus increase the chances of survival.

  • Do not remove the battery. All data will be erased. The battery is not causing the chirping sound. It is notifying you to replace the pads and to contact EMS. Put the AED back in service by checking supplies-pads, towel, razor, gloves; check battery; and clean the AED.