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June 1-7, 2008 marked the first annual American Red Cross CPR and AED Awareness Week. The Red Cross sponsored activities and educational services nationwide with the goal of encouraging “states, cities and towns to establish organized programs that provide CPR and AED trainings and increase public access to AEDs.”

An automatic external defibrillator (AED), is a computerized medical device which can be used to restore natural heart rhythm to someone in cardiac arrest. AEDs are easy to use devices that, if readily available, can increase survival by as much as 49% and prevent many instances of severe brain injury. Legislation in 2006 established guidelines requiring AEDs to be placed in buildings owned or leased by the federal government.

The American Heart Association recommends AEDs to be placed in public areas such as office complexes as well as training several people in the workplace how to perform CPR and operate AEDs if necessary. In Illinois, recent legislation provides funding for public facilities such as parks to become equipped with AEDs, but the choice to place AEDs in private workplaces remains at the discretion of the employer.

Employers should seriously consider placing AEDs in the workplace. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in Illinois, and many of these deaths can be prevented if the person is treated quickly. At a cost of about $2000, they can be important life saving devices if easily accessible.

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