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Cardiac arrest - public access defibrillators

When a heart stops beating, early intervention can often save a life. Together with the City of Ottawa Paramedics, trained residents can and have improved survival rates for those suffering from sudden cardiac arrest.

Purchasing an AED

photo of an AED

Join the Ottawa Heart Safe City
Community Challenge

Over 800 AEDs have been placed into the hands of trained citizens in the City of Ottawa, of which over 350 are privately owned and operated organizations. Your organization can join in this life-saving initiative by purchasing an AED and placing it into your site.

The City of Ottawa currently uses the Zoll AED Plus for our public system, the AED Pro for our Fire and Police Services, and the M-Series for our Paramedic Service. The Ottawa Paramedic Public Access Defibrillation (PPAD) Program will attempt to assist non-City facilities with the development and operation of their PAD Program by offering the following:

  • Help choose, locate within the facility, maintain, and download of an appropriate AED
  • Develop a response plan, training plan, equipment restocking, pad replacement, and coordinate an after event debriefing for staff

If your organization chooses an AED similar to what the Ottawa Paramedic Service is using, we can offer more of the above-mentioned services for free or at a reduced cost due to economy of scale and standardization of equipment and services.

For Canadian approved product information, go to:

For more information on purchasing an AED, contact us by email us or call 613-580-2424, ext. 22452.

Frequently asked questions

Q: What is sudden cardiac arrest?

A: Sudden cardiac arrest is a condition in which the heartbeat stops abruptly and unexpectedly. This usually is caused by ventricular fibrillation, when the bottom ventricle of the heart quivers uncontrollably and cannot pump blood. Rapid defibrillation is the only effective treatment for this.

Q: Is sudden cardiac arrest the same as a heart attack?

A: No. A heart attack is a condition in which a blood clot suddenly blocks a coronary artery, resulting in the death of heart muscle supplied by that artery. Heart attack patients usually experience chest pain and usually remain conscious. Heart attacks are serious and sometimes lead to sudden cardiac arrest. However, sudden cardiac arrest may occur independently from a heart attack and without warning signs. Sudden cardiac arrest results in death if not treated immediately.

Q: Who is at risk for sudden cardiac arrest?

A: While the average age of sudden cardiac arrest patients is about 65, sudden cardiac arrest is unpredictable and can strike anyone, anywhere, anytime.

Q: What is an AED?

A: An AED, or automated external defibrillator, is a device that automatically analyzes heart rhythms and advises the operator to deliver an electric current if the heart is in ventricular fibrillation, an otherwise fatal rhythm.

Q: Do I have to be a doctor, nurse or paramedic to use an AED?

A: No. Non-medical people can use AEDs successfully after a few hours of training.

Q: How do AEDs work?

A: AEDs are automated - they take the decision making process out of the hands of rescuers and place it in an internal computer chip. They don't use paddles but instead have patches called electrodes that are easily placed on the patient's chest. The device uses a recorded message to give step-by-step instructions to the user. The AED analyses the heart and will only deliver a shock to the patient if it detects the presence of cardiac rhythms that require defibrillation. If the patient is not in cardiac arrest, the AED will not deliver the shock.

Q: What about CPR?

A: Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is an integral part of the "Chain of Survival." In the absence of a defibrillator, CPR can be used from the time of collapse until the defibrillator arrives - this may extend the amount of time that a patient can still be successfully defibrillated. The probability of survival is improved if the patient receives CPR while waiting to be defibrillated.

Time is Critical

Q: Shouldn't we wait until the paramedics arrive?

A: It is impossible in the majority of cases for paramedics to arrive at the sides of sudden cardiac arrest patients quickly enough to initiate CPR and give rapid, life-saving defibrillation. The reason is this: For every minute that passes after a sudden cardiac arrest, the chance for survival drops by 10 per cent.

Always start CPR first.

Q: What if I forget the steps for shocking a patient?

A: The steps for shocking a patient in cardiac arrest are simple and straightforward. Just follow the visual and audio prompts provided by the AED machine.

Q: Can I hurt the patient with an AED?

A: Most patients of sudden cardiac arrest will die if their hearts are not shocked right away with a defibrillator. If you follow standard procedures and routine safety precautions, your actions can only help.

Q: Can I accidentally shock myself?

A: AEDs are extremely safe when used properly. The electric shock is programmed to go from one pad to the other through the patient's chest. Basic precautions, such as not touching the patient during the shock, virtually ensure the safety of rescuers.

Q: Do all ambulances carry defibrillators?

A: Yes. All ambulances and fire response vehicles and marked police cars carry AEDs. 

Q: Should AEDs be used on children who suffer sudden cardiac arrest?

A:Yes. Rescuers should always attempt to use paediatric pads when applying an AED to children and infants. If paediatric pads are not available rescuers can use adult pads placed anterior-posterior (front and back) due to the child or infant’s smaller size.

If the pads touch each other (this can cause electrical arcing), they should not be used.

Q: Our organization has limited resources. Why should we spend our money on an early defibrillation program?

A: An automated external defibrillator is the most important computer a business could ever buy. It is a key occupational health and safety investment. Over 50 Canadian organizations involved in emergency cardiac care, including the Heart and Stroke Foundation, encourage the widespread availability of automated defibrillators. AEDs are becoming standard emergency care, and starting in October 2000, anyone trained in CPR in North America will automatically be trained on AED use as well.

Q: What if the AED malfunctions?

A: When AEDs are maintained properly, malfunctions are extremely rare. They require little maintenance. In the unlikely event that a device does not work, follow manufacturer's recommendations and do CPR until help arrives.

Getting defibrillators for your workplace

The Ottawa Paramedic Service encourages all businesses and City of Ottawa partners to start their own Public Access Defibrillators Program (PPAD). It is an inexpensive and effective way to help protect your employees, visitors and citizens of Ottawa.

Having an AED on-site at your facility can significantly increase the chance of survival should someone have a cardiac arrest.

For more information on how to purchase an AED and set up your own Public Access Defibrillator Program, Contact us or call 613-580-2424, ext. 22452.

Legislation

A top priority of the Ottawa Paramedic Service’s, Public Access Defibrillation program is to ensure that those who purchase and use Automated External Defibrillators to save lives meet high standards of responsible use.

AEDs and the Law:

There is very little legal or liability risk for a person that uses an Automatic External Defibrillator. The concept of having an AED on site has been widely promoted by over 50 heart health organizations in Canada, including the Heart and Stroke Foundation. Having an AED on site is rapidly becoming a basic standard of emergency care, equivalent to the value of having a smoke alarm. In fact, facilities that install AEDs are now reducing their liability by providing this potentially life-saving service. Bill 171 further protects organizations that place AEDs into their facilities.

How is the average citizen protected?

The Federal Criminal Code exempts all acts done in good faith in emergency or life-threatening situations (the Good Samaritans Act – Bill 20). It is important to note that liability in AED use is only theoretical. There has never been a civil or criminal case in Canada brought against a member of the public who used an AED to try to save a life. The person you are trying to help, and may possibly save, is for all intents and purposes already dead; you can do no further harm. While the use of these devices doesn’t guarantee survival, it does give a chance where close to none previously existed. To withhold the use of an AED because of an unfounded fear of liability is to issue death warrants to thousands of Canadians each year.

How is the organization that has purchased an AED protected?

As above, there has never been a civil case in Canada brought against an organization that has installed an AED. Owners of AED machines are only required to ensure the appropriate machine is used and maintained and that there is trained staff available to respond through an internal “Emergency Response Plan”.

Medical Supervision of the AED Program

In some provinces, use of an AED is a “medically delegated act”, which means that a doctor must oversee an organization’s AED installation and training. The Province of Ontario, however, has clarified its legislation so that it is no longer a medically delegated act, however, it is still recommended that a Medical Director oversee the program (usually provided by an accredited training organization.

Registering AED location

The Ottawa Paramedic Service would like facilities with automated external defibrillators (AED) on premises to register them with the Ottawa Paramedic Service Dispatch Centre. This information will be provided to dispatchers when a 911 call comes from the registered building. Dispatchers can then guide first responders in locating and using their AED. 

Register AED