How to use a defibrillator

Defibrillators are very easy to use. Although they don’t all look the same, they all function in broadly the same way.

You don't need training to use one. The machine gives clear spoken instructions – all you have to do is follow them - and it won’t shock someone unless they need it.

If you come across someone who is unconscious, unresponsive, not breathing or not breathing normally, they’re in cardiac arrest. The most important thing is to call 999 and start CPR to keep the blood flowing to the brain and around the body. After a cardiac arrest, every minute without CPR and defibrillation reduces someone's chance of survival by 10 per cent.

If you're on your own, don't interrupt the CPR to go and get a defibrillator. If it's possible, send someone else to find one. When you call 999, the operator can tell you if there's a public access defibrillator nearby.

To use a defibrillator, follow these simple steps:

  • Step 1: Turn the defibrillator on by pressing the green button and follow its instructions.
  • Step 2: Peel off the sticky pads and attach them to the patient’s skin, one on each side of the chest, as shown in the picture on the defibrillator.
  • Step 3: Once the pads have been attached, stop CPR and don’t touch the patient. The defibrillator will then analyse the patient’s heart rhythm.
  • Step 4: The defibrillator will assess whether a shock is needed and if so, it will tell you to press the shock button. An automatic defibrillator will shock the patient without prompt. Do not touch the patient while they are being shocked.
  • Step 5: The defibrillator will tell you when the shock has been delivered and whether you need to continue CPR.
  • Step 6: Continue with chest compressions and rescue breaths until the patient shows signs of life or the defibrillator tells you to stop so it can analyse the heartbeat again. 

Defibrillator demonstration video

 

Learn CPR with our Heartstart courses

Heartstart courses teach you CPR and other emergency life saving skills. They are free to attend.

There are over 1,700 Heartstart schemes across the UK supported by the British Heart Foundation.

Visit our Heartstart courses page to find out more.