HeartSAFEHeartSAFE Frequently Asked Questions

What is sudden cardiac arrest (SCA)?

Sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) occurs when the heart suddenly and unexpectedly stops beating. When this happens, blood stops flowing to the brain and other vital organs. SCA usually causes death if not treated in minutes.

Is SCA the same as a heart attack?

No. A heart attack is caused by clogged or narrowed heart arteries that prevent the flow of blood. When blood flow is blocked, there is damage to the heart muscle. SCA is caused by an electrical problem in the heart that causes the heart to stop pumping blood. People who have heart attacks may become victims of SCA. People of all ages – including kids and teenagers – can be victims of SCA.

How common is SCA?

SCA is one of the leading causes of death in the United States. It strikes more than 200,000 Americans each year: nearly one death every two minutes.

What causes SCA?

The most common cause of SCA is ventricular fibrillation – a dangerous and abnormal heart rhythm. This irregular beating causes the heart to stop, unable to oxygenate the vital organs of the body.

Why is early defibrillation important?

Early defibrillation with an AED is the only treatment for SCA. According to the American Heart Association, each minute of delay in delivering a defibrillation shock to a cardiac arrest victim reduces the chance of survival by 10 percent. Also, published studies have proven that early defibrillation within the first few minutes of Sudden Cardiac Arrest, can save up to 74 percent of victims.

What is an AED?

An automatic External Defibrillator (AED) is a device that can be used by anyone to defibrillate someone whose heart has stopped.

Who can operate an AED?

Fully automatic AEDs like those found in airports are designed for use by the public. All AEDs approved for use in the United States use an electronic voice to prompt users through each step.

What liability do we incur by deploying AEDs in our community?

The laws surrounding AED usage vary from state to state. Pennsylvania has passed Good Samaritan laws with language about AEDs. Additionally, the Cardiac Arrest Survival Act passed by Congress and signed by President Clinton in 2000, provides AED users and acquirers with protection from liability.

Why do we need AEDs? Can't we just call 9-1-1?

Time is THE most important element in saving a sudden cardiac death victim. Survival is directly linked to the time interval between the heart attack and the first AED shock delivered to the victim. Because AEDs can be used by nearly anyone, widespread deployment in public places, including recreation fields and sporting events, gives victims the best chance of survival.

Where would we place our AEDs?

Wherever AEDs are placed, they should be visible and easily accessible. Some key areas to place AEDs in the community include:

  • Schools
  • Community Centers
  • Train or bus stations
  • Airports
  • Shopping malls
  • Places of worship
  • Parks, golf courses, and recreational areas
  • Office or government buildings
  • Concert halls and theatres
  • Sports stadiums and arenas
  • Grocery Stores