How to Operate an Automated External Defibrillator

Reviewed by Arefa Cassoobhoy, MD, MPH on October 26, 2020

Call 911 if:

1. Check Responsiveness

  • For an adult or older child, shout and shake the person to confirm consciousness. Do not use AED on a conscious person.
  • For an infant or young child, pinch skin. Never shake a young child.
  • Check breathing and pulse. If absent or irregular, prepare to use AED as soon as possible.

2. Prepare to Use AED

  • Make sure the person is in a dry area and away from puddles or water.
  • Check for body piercings or outline of an implanted medical device, such as a pacemaker or implantable defibrillator.
  • AED pads must be placed at least 1 inch away from piercings or implanted devices.

3. Use AED

For newborns, infants, and children up to age 8, use a pediatric AED, if possible. If not, use an adult AED.

  • Turn on the AED.
  • Wipe chest dry.
  • Attach pads.
  • Plug in connector, if necessary.
  • Make sure no one is touching the person.
  • Push “Analyze” button.
  • If a shock is advised, check again to make sure no one is touching the person.
  • Push “Shock” button.
  • Start or resume chest compressions.
  • For an adult, see The Importance of CPR for information about giving CPR.
  • For a child, see CPR for Children.
  • Follow AED prompts.

4. Continue CPR After Using AED

  • After 2 minutes of CPR, check the person’s heart rhythm. If it’s still absent or irregular, give another shock.
  • If a shock isn’t needed, continue CPR until emergency help arrives or the person begins to move.
  • Stay with the person until help arrives.
WebMD Medical Reference



National Heart Lung and Blood Institute: “How to Use an Automated External Defibrillator.”

American Red Cross: “Hands-Only Citizen CPR.”

American Academy of Pediatrics: “Ventricular Fibrillation and the Use of Automated External Defibrillators on Children.”

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