How to Determine the Best AED for your School
All Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) work and will save lives. The most important thing is to ensure that your school is equipped with these life-saving AED units, no matter which brand or model.
That being said, there are certainly specific AED models that have features and capabilities that are better suited for the school environment. This guide will discuss the five most important factors a school should consider when deciding which AED to purchase for their campus. While no single AED model “wins” on all factors, this analysis will allow schools to choose the device that best fits the needs of their AED program.
The five most important factors are:
- Total Cost of Ownership
- Size & Weight
- Pediatric Capabilities
- Fully Automatic vs. Semi-Automatic
Total Cost of Ownership (TCO)
While some AED models have a lower upfront cost, do not be fooled because that isn’t the last expense you’ll have with your AED! The cost you should be looking at to compare devices and figure out your budget is what’s called the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO).
We know that schools often have tight budgets, so be sure that the AED you purchase for your campus is on the lower end of the TCO spectrum!
When comparing the prices of AED units, it is important to consider both the upfront purchase price and the cost of replacement supplies such as AED batteries and electrode pads to fully understand what the devices are going to cost over a given period of time.
All of these costs combined represent an AED’s Total Cost of Ownership or is the cost of an AED over the lifetime of the device. To reduce the financial burden down the line for maintenance-related expenses, schools should purchase an AED that has a lower TCO.
Best AED for: Total Cost of Ownership (TCO)
Recommendation: purchase the AED with the lowest TCO
AED Model Winner: HeartSine samaritan PAD 350P or 360P
AED Size & Weight:
Make sure the AED you buy for your school is as small and easy to carry as possible!
While you should place AEDs in fixed locations across campus — whether it be in the admin office or inside buildings — you don’t want that to be the extent of your School AED Program.
Instead, an optimal School AED Program has mobile AEDs that are carried around campus all day, and especially at after school sports, by staff members such as your athletic trainer, school nurse, and even sports coaches. Mobiles AEDs can increase survival chances by making the devices more quickly accessible.
Make sure you purchase a device that takes up minimal space and is lightweight because an AED left in the admin office, when a student suffers SCA on the baseball field, is no good.
School AED programs most commonly place the units in fixed wall cabinets inside various buildings across campus.
While these fixed units are important to ensure sufficient coverage of devices on campus, placement itself often doesn’t address the critically important need of having an AED quickly accessible during school sports at the football, soccer, or baseball field — which could significantly reduce time to defibrillation and increase survival chances for victims of Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA). This is a key issue with many of today’s School AED Programs, as it’s rare for there to be “mobile” AEDs that are carried around campus or brought to athletic facilities by school personnel such as athletic trainers, school nurses, and sports coaches.
The reason the deployment of “mobile” AEDs is rare is because oftentimes schools purchase AED models that are not very portable from a size and weight perspective. This makes it extremely burdensome for the devices to be carried around campus, as staff members such as athletic trainers are often forced to dedicate an entire separate gear bag for the AED.
When asked about the importance of having portable AEDs on campus, Robbie Bowers, the Head Athletic Trainer at Rancho Bernardo High School in San Diego, said,
“For Athletic Trainers, portability is vital. We’re always carrying so much gear; it’s [an AED] another piece of equipment that we have to lug around. It’d be nice if they were smaller and lighter so that we could keep them in our normal bags.”
AEDs should be deployed at schools in a “mobile” fashion so that they are brought to large gatherings taking place on campus and to the athletic fields during practices and games (where there’s the greatest risk of someone going into SCA).
There are countless stories of how “mobile” AEDs deployed in this manner have saved lives on campuses, showing that it’s beneficial for schools to purchase the smallest and most lightweight model possible.
AED Weight & Size Comparison
Weight & Size shown with no carry case
|AED Model||Weight (lbs)||Size (cubic inches)|
|Cardiac Science G3||6.6||433.75|
|Cardiac Science G5||5.7||361.08|
|Defibtech Lifeline View||3.0||163.87|
|HeartSine (all models)||2.4||110.20|
|Philips HeartStart Onsite||3.3||110.20|
|Philips HeartStart FRx||3.5||149.95|
|Physio-Control LIFEPAK EXPRESS||4.5||319.20|
|Physio-Control LIFEPAK CR PLUS||4.5||319.20|
|Physio-Control LIFEPAK CR2||4.5||365.26|
|ZOLL AED Plus||6.7||573.56|
Best AED for: Size & Weight
Recommendation: purchase the smallest and most lightweight AED possible
AED Model Winner: Any HeartSine device
All AED models need to be checked and maintained on a regular basis. Unfortunately, most AEDs don’t have any connectivity built in, requiring that you manually check every device at least once per month to confirm whether it’s ready or not ready for emergency use.
Among the many tasks staff members need to worry about, the added responsibility of manually checking every AED on campus (or in the district) at least once per month is a tedious and unnecessary task. A “connected” AED can help solve this problem!!
Unfortunately, most AEDs don’t have any connectivity built into the product, and instead require device owners (or the person responsible for maintenance) to physically look at the AEDs status light to determine whether the AED is ready or not ready for emergency use. Without connectivity, AED owners are forced to manually keep track of the device’s battery life and electrode pad expiration dates.
Since most models don’t have connectivity, you might be wondering what happens if the AEDs status changes in between regularly scheduled maintenance checks, and now the device isn’t ready for use?
The unfortunate and scary reality is that chances are, no one will know the device isn’t functional until the next maintenance check, or even worse until someone tries to use the device in an emergency and it can’t be used to save a life. Simply put, the current manual maintenance process is burdensome and full of risk. It is also especially difficult for large schools and districts that place numerous AEDs across their campus.
Here is a tragic example of what happens when schools don’t properly maintain their AEDs.
Fortunately, two new AED models incorporate Wi-Fi connectivity to help slightly automate the current manual maintenance process by proactively alerting AED owners when an issue is detected with their device. These two devices are:
- Any HeartSine AED model with the HeartSine Gateway attachment (this adds $359 to the upfront cost of the AED to access Wi-Fi capabilities)
- The Physio-Control CR2 model (adds $100 to the upfront cost of the AED to access Wi-Fi capabilities)
Schools should purchase an AED model that has some degree of connectivity so that the maintenance process can be simplified to reduce the risk of non-functional devices on campus.
Best AED for: Connectivity
Recommendation: purchase an AED model that has connectivity features that allow for remote monitoring and maintenance of your device
AED Model Winner: HeartSine samaritan PAD 350P or 360P (more affordable than the Physio-Control CR2 product with similar connectivity feature set)
Given the number of children present on school campuses, it is important to own an AED that can easily provide therapy to pediatric patients. Although all AEDs have the ability to deliver a shock to both adult and pediatric patients, certain models make it much simpler to do the following:
- Switch between the two modes (adult and pediatric) during an emergency. This is important to make sure the device is delivering a safe and effective shock to the victim
- Maintain the device such that it’s ready to use on either an adult or pediatric patient
For context, all AEDs have the ability to deliver a shock to both adult and pediatric patients. The difference between the two shocks is that the shock delivered to pediatric patients is at a lower energy level. The definition of a pediatric patient is standard across all AED models as a child under the age of 8 years old or under 55 pounds.
Most AEDs require you to insert a separate set of pediatric pads (one device actually requires you to insert a special pediatric key) to reduce the energy level of the defibrillation shock. We recommend staying away from AED models that have this requirement because separate pediatric pads create added cost and maintenance burden. Devices with separate pediatric pads require schools to:
- Keep track of an extra set of electrode pads to ensure the pediatric pads can be easily located when responding to an SCA on campus
- Pay for the replacement of an extra set of electrode pads once they expire (more to come below)
- Waste extra and valuable time preparing the device for the appropriate patient during an emergency
Instead, for ease of use during an emergency and less burdensome maintenance, schools should strongly consider purchasing an AED that has a pediatric button and universal electrode pads (which can be used for both adults and kids). By pressing the pediatric button, the device will automatically reduce the defibrillation energy down to an appropriate level for a pediatric patient. Much simpler and easier!
Learn more about why a pediatric button and universal electrode pad are better options.
Best AED for: Pediatric Capabilities
Recommendation: purchase an AED that has a pediatric button and universal electrode pads.
AED Model Winner: Physio-Control CR2
Fully Automatic vs. Semi-Automatic:
Nearly all AED units come in two configurations:
- Semi-automatic AEDs require a user to press a shock button to deliver a shock to the patient
- Fully-automatic AEDs will automatically deliver a shock to the patient once the device detects the patient is in a shockable heart rhythm
Since schools are often open to the public, it’s unknown whether a trained or untrained bystander will be the one to use an AED to respond to a patient in SCA on campus. To ensure the AED is as easy to use as possible for bystanders of all training levels, we recommend that you purchase the fully-automatic version of the device.
All AED manufacturers (aside from Philips) sell two configurations of their devices: semi-automatic and fully-automatic. There have been many instances where untrained laypersons have used a semi-automatic AED perfectly during an emergency, but then they hesitate to press the shock button because they fear they’ll hurt the patient. This hesitancy causes a significant, and most importantly, avoidable delay in treatment to the patient.
When a patient is suffering from Sudden Cardiac Arrest, time is of the essence. So, when the AED machine determines that a patient has a shockable rhythm, it’s critical to deliver a shock as quickly as possible. To eliminate the risk of a bystander delaying therapy by not pressing the shock button, schools should purchase the fully-automatic version of an AED.
It is worth noting that the upfront purchase cost of the device is more expensive for the fully automatic version of the following AED models:
- Physio-Control CR2 (+$100)
- Physio-Control CR Plus (+$100)
- HeartSine samaritan PAD 350P and 360P (+$100)
- Defibtech Lifeline (+$100)
Check out our AED Comparison Tool.
Best AED for: Fully Automatic vs. Semi-Automatic
Recommendation: purchase the fully automatic version of the AED model you choose.
AED Model Winner: HeartSine samaritan PAD 350P or 360P.