SCAs, CPR, and AEDs – Acronyms Critical to Life


Sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) claims nearly 1,000 lives every day in the US. Unlike heart attacks, SCAs strike without warning and often lead to death within mere minutes. The keys to survival are cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR), early defibrillation of (restoration of the electronic impulses to) the heart, and rapid medical response. Probably the best way of ensuring early defibrillation is through the use of an automated external defibrillator (AED) that can be administered by a minimally trained responder.

  1. The American Heart Association defines the “Chain of Survival” for SCA to be:
    • Early access to emergency medical care, e.g., calling 911 or the equivalent)
    • Early administration of CPR
    • Early defibrillation (in most non-medical environments, by use of an AED)
    • Early institution of advanced cardiac life support (i.e., generally, hospital care)
  2. The chances of survival from SCA vary by type and delay of response:
    • No care: 0% survival
    • No CPR, delayed defibrillation (10 minutes or more): 0 to 2% survival
    • CPR within 2 minutes, delayed defibrillation (10 minutes or more): 2 to 8% survival
    • CPR and defibrillation within 8 minutes: 20% survival
    • CPR and defibrillation within 4 minutes, paramedic help within 8 minutes: 43% survival
  3. In some areas of our country, AEDs are the standard of care in aquatic and fitness centers; it is reasonable to expect that they will become the universal standard of care in the foreseeable future.
  4. The following guidelines should be followed when implementing the use of AEDs in your facility:
    • AED usage protocols, procedures, and training requirements should be developed in conjunction with a qualified medical care provider and in accordance with the manufacturer's guidelines.
    • Any AED acquired by the YMCA should meet Food and Drug Administration (FDA) standards.
    • Initial and annual recurrent training in accordance with the manufacturer's guidelines should be provided for as many staff members as possible. No untrained staff should operate an AED. Training logs including trainer, material covered, date, duration, and signatures of attendees should be maintained.
    • A scheduled maintenance program in accordance with the manufacturer's guidelines should be established, rigidly followed, and faithfully documented for each AED used. Donated or used equipment should be accepted only with appropriate maintenance documentation.
    • At least 1 and preferably 2 staff members certified in AED usage should be on duty whenever your facility is open for use.

Please call us at 800-463-8546 to discuss this or any other risk management safety tip, or visit our web site at to learn more about YMCA risk management issues.


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