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In Australia, many public swimming facilities are situated in or near other recreation facilities like playgrounds, sporting fields and parks. So, imagine this scenario;

You’re a lifeguard working at your centre when you hear a lot of commotion on the sporting field further away. The game of soccer being played by primary school kids has stopped and everyone seems to be standing around someone laying on the ground.

Next thing a woman runs into your centre, a school teacher, and frantically asks;

          “Have you guys got an AED?”

It turns out that the person laying on the ground is another teacher and she is having, what appears to be, a cardiac arrest.

What would you do?

  1. Call emergency services and give her the centres AED to return on her own?
  2. Initiate the centre’s emergency action plan (EAP), grab the AED and head over to the fields, knowing someone else will now call emergency services?
  3. Call emergency services but not hand over the AED because the teacher isn’t trained and the AED is for the centre’s customers?

I appreciate there are other minor variations on these. It would be an interesting to see how many people pick each option. In Australia I think option ‘c’ would be the least popular, but that’s how it unfolded at a similar incident in the UK a few weeks back.

An article in the UK Mirror reports a teacher being denied access to an AED because “it was against health and safety rules”. The company who operates the centre backed up the employee by saying that it;

          “regrets it was unable to assist on this occasion and hopes the teacher involved in the incident makes a full recovery.

And that the centre was unable to share their AED due to the;

          “stringent nature of the health and safety processes and procedures surround the use of such equipment.”

Thanks to bystander CPR the teacher survived, but it she hadn’t it would have been a pretty interesting inquiry. There’s a moral obligation but what about a legal obligation?

I’m not sure what the centre’s health & safety procedures are and I’m not familiar with what the UK industry says about the use of AEDs.

In the United States a mix of federal and state laws apply and one Food and Drug Authority (FDA) document states;

“Public access refers to accessibility for trained users to use AEDs in public places. Public access does not mean that any member of the public witnessing a sudden cardiac arrest should be                   able to use the device. AEDs are to be used only by individuals with the proper training and certification in accordance with state and local laws.”

This is in stark contrast to the Australian Resuscitation Council (ARC) whose mantra is; “Any Attempt at Resuscitation is Better Than No Attempt”.

The ARC guideline on the matter is very clear;

“AED use should not be restricted to trained personnel. Allowing the use of AEDs by individuals without prior formal training can be beneficial and may be life saving”

Last year at the Australian Resuscitation Council’s (ARC) conference I heard one speaker talk about data on average rates of use for AEDs in Australia. From memory I think it was about once in 30 years. This kind of statistic would certainly make the chances of another cardiac arrest happening at the same time very rare.

Surprisingly the issue of restricted use of the AED in the UK article divided the comments section of the article. Again, there are always the trolls.

One day your centre might experience an emergency outside your perimeter fence. Many of you will have already have dealt with one. A procedure for dealing with these events is essential. It will be helpful for staff and might save a life.

Any attempt is better than no attempt.

Ahhhh, that reminds me of a video that relates to this exact topic; The Bloody Sweet Hit

Special thanks to Damian Walshe-Howling and Glen Eira City Council. You’ve made a lot of crusty old pool managers giggle.