Defibrillator – What is it and how do I use it?

What is a Defibrillator?

A defibrillator is a life-saving machine that in some cases of cardiac arrest gives the heart an electric shock, this is called defibrillation and can save lives.

Why are they important?

Numerous studies have shown that if someone has a Cardiac Arrest in the Community with no defibrillator immediately available, there is only a 6% chance of them surviving; even if someone is performing great CPR on them.

Cardiac arrest is when the heart stops pumping blood around the body. The most common cause is an abnormal rhythm of the heart, known as ventricular fibrillation. This abnormal rhythm can occur when the heart muscle is damaged as a result of a heart attack or when insufficient oxygen reaches the heart.

When someone has a cardiac arrest, defibrillation needs to be prompt

If a defibrillator is used within the first 3 minutes of someone stopping breathing, their chances of survival jumps from 6% to 74% and for each minute’s delay there is a 10% reduction in survival rate.

Hundreds of people are alive today entirely due to the prompt and appropriate use of a defibrillator.

Chest Compressions

If a casualty becomes unconscious and is not breathing, start CPR – pushing hard and fast on the centre of the casualty’s chest. Try to get a defibrillator, send a bystander to fetch the nearest one.
Once you have the defibrillator, open it up and it will start talking to you. Dry the casualty’s chest and then place the pads onto it as illustrated on the pads. Ideally someone should continue with CPR whilst another person is putting the pads onto the casualty’s chest and concentrating on the defibrillator.

Ensure you know how to do to the best CPR – pushing down on the centre of the chest 5-6 cms, hard and fast. You are aiming for 100 – 120 chest compressions a minute

Keep going and do not stop until the paramedic is there and ready to take over or the casualty begins to regain consciousness.

Where do I find a Defibrillator?

Automatic External Defibrillators (AED) are now easily accessible at numerous locations; train and tube stations, shopping centres, dentists and GP Practices, sports grounds, leisure centres… and are available for the general public to use. 

Do you know where your nearest one is? No, then there are a couple of applications that you can download and use to find your nearest one and one such application is GoodSam which is available on the appropriate app store.

Is a Defibrillator easy to use?

Yes they are, they are designed for anyone to be able to use. They provide you with a voice prompt of what to do

Aren’t Defibrillators in a locked cabinet?

Yes they are. Once you have established that the casualty is unconscious and not breathing you will dial 999 or 112 to activate the ambulance service and start CPR.
If you have an assistant then you can send them to fetch the nearest AED. The access code for the AED cabinet will be provided by the ambulance control centre.

What if I get it wrong when using the Defibrillator?

The machine analyses the casualty’s heart rhythm and will only allow a shock to be given if they are in a shockable rhythm. It is not possible to override this with an AED and if a shock is not advised you should continue to give CPR until the ambulance arrives.

The defibrillator will not allow you to shock someone if they don’t need it and it will prompt you throughout, including telling you to continue with CPR

Are you CPR and AED trained?

No – It goes without saying that they are indeed life saving but you also need to receive defibrillator training to ensure you are proficient with its use. This will not only further increase the chances of survival (from using the AED effectively) it will also make you more confident in its application and use.

Yes  – then do something good and join the GoodSAM register.   The East Midlands Ambulance Service (EMAS) was the first UK ambulance service outside of London to partner with GoodSAM (Smartphone Activated Medics); a web based alerting system and application that uses innovative technology to link a qualified lifesaver with a patient in cardiac arrest.

Rutland First Aid Training provides this information for guidance and it is not in any way a substitute for medical advice. Rutland First Aid Training is not responsible or liable for any diagnosis made, or actions taken based on this information

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First Aid Myths

Myth 4 – Can not put a plaster on a child

We’ve often heard of teachers, volunteers and carers being told to ask parents for permission, or even requiring parents to drive over and put the plaster on themselves. This persistent myth causes a lot of unnecessary hassle and worry.There is no rule that says a responsible adult can’t put a plaster

on a child’s minor cut. Some children do have an allergy to normal plasters. If you know a child is allergic you can use the Hypo-allergenic type of plaster. The important thing is to clean and cover the cut to stop it getting infected.

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Why are some First Aid Courses Boring?

During our courses we often hear the words “your courses are so hands on”, “our last course we never actually did any CPR” and “I have learnt so much more on your first aid course than I have learnt on a number of first aid courses I have attended”.

We also have attended many courses over our many years of being ‘in the first aid world’ and when we started we wanted to be different. If its boring for the students, it must be boring for the trainer and personally we go to work to have fun!

Knowing basic first aid can be the difference in an emergency situation between a casualty surviving or having a shorter recovery time. The role is to Preserve Life

It is proven by many studies that simple bystander interventions before the arrival of professional help can save lives. Having the confidence to use an Automated External Defibrillator (AED) or knowing how to stem a severe bleed.

Here in the UK every workplace has to conform to the Health and Safety First Aid At Work recommendations and guidelines and course content.

So why are some First Aid Courses boring?

Well it depends on the definition of boring but we all know the adage “Death by Powerpoint”. You know the courses, a trainer stands up and reads a powerpoint presentation to you. Why? I can read – why is the trainer just reading the slide deck… just what do you learn from that?

Maybe the trainer plays a DVD and then demonstrates to you.

First Aid is a practical skill, it is one that should be practised

First aid is a practical skill, it is one that should be practised and that is what we believe. Our role is to provide you with the confidence and willingness to have a go. If you have practised and have some background knowledge as a foundation it is easier to understand and know what you are doing.

We focus on training you the key lifesaving skills as well as how to keep yourself safe.

  • Basic airway management
  • CPR with emphasis on high-quality chest compressions
  • Rescue Breathing with CPR
  • AED familiarisation and practice using and how to find your local AED’s
  • Choking – real life practise!
  • Spinal Management as an individual and with team work

As we have already said First Aid is all practical as shown by the skills we focus on above and we believe our students need to have that high quality hands on practise of each and every skill. After all when you need to do these skills it will be a highly emotive environment and the motor skill needs to ‘kick in’ as we can’t expect you to remember what to do – if you never practised in class.

Our feedback and in class comments tell us that our philosophy is correct – learning by doing, in a fun and small group is the only way to go in our opinion

Have a requirement?

Have a first aid requirement then get in touch and let us help you gain the skills that we hope you never have to use but if you do, you will be ready

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What happens when I call 999?

Please remember YOU DO NOT GET SEEN ANY FASTER AT A&E IF YOU ARRIVE BY AMBULANCE but NEVER be afraid to ring them if emergency help is required.

The decision to call 999

Having to call 999 is not the call that any of us want to make as it means there is an emergency and help is needed urgently. The decision will vary, but some examples include

  • a person appears not to be breathing
  • a person is unconscious and unresponsive
  • is having chest pain, difficulty breathing or experiencing weakness or numbness
  • experiencing severe bleeding that you are unable to stop with direct pressure
  • a person has had a fit for the first time, even if they seem to recover
  • a person is having a severe allergic reaction to something which is accompanied by severe difficulty in breating
  • a child is severely burnt
  • a person has fallen from a height and there is a possibility of a spinal injury

What happens when you dial 999 (or 112)

When you call 999 you will speak to a BT Operator who will ask “Emergency, which service“? Fire, police, ambulance, coastguard or mountain rescue are all appropriate answers. For the purpose of this blog ambulance, however if you want Fire, police and ambulance still say ambulance and the ambulance service will contact Fire and Police if required.

Once you are transferred to Ambulance the call taker will say…

  1. Ambulance, is the patient breathing?
  2. Is the patient awake?

If the answer to any of these two questions is No, then it triggers a Category 1 call and an Ambulance will be dispatched at this point before they have an address

Then you will be asked for the address of the emergency, from there the call taker will talk you through hands only CPR (if you have been taught CPR and Rescue Breathing AND are happy to do, then do both – but remember your training and that priority is to good quality CPR)

If you answer YES to the two questions, the call handler will ask the caller “Tell me exactly what’s happened?”

The call handler will listen to you very carefully as they have a list of automatic Category 1 triggers, such as Allergic Reaction, Major Trauma, Choking, etc. if any of these are clicked then a Category 1 again will be generated

If no Category 1 triggers are heard then the call taker will type in the chief complaint for example “Chest Pain” which will automatically be allocated a call category. The system will then generate questions to ask you the caller and depending on what is wrong, it will reassess the call category to determine your priority.

What should you do whilst waiting for an ambulance?

If doing CPR and Rescue Breaths then continue doing so and stay on the line to the ambulance call handler

If not doing CPR then

  • Stay with the patient until the ambulance crew or community first responder arrives and call back if the patient condition or location changes
  • If your house name and / or number is not clearly visible from the roadside, ask someone to open the door and signal to the emergency team where they are required AND if possible switch on outside lights and car lights
  • If it is dark, turn on house lights and pull back curtains
  • Lock away family pets
  • If possible, collect any medication being taken by the patient
  • Stay calm

When the ambulance arrives

If you are undertaking CPR and / or Rescue Breathing DO NOT STOP until the emergency crew asks you to! They will assess the patient’s clinical condition and treatment given prior to taking over the scene.

About Us

Rutland First Aid training provides a full suite of first aid training all tailored to your needs. We strongly recommend that everyone has some basic first aid skills, so why not attend one of our CPR and AED courses and know how to do CPR.. you could be the difference between your family member or even work colleagues survival

Rutland First Aid Training provides this information for guidance and it is not in any way a substitute for medical advice. Rutland First Aid Training is not responsible or liable for any diagnosis made, or actions taken based on this information

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COVID Training Standards

Along with great training, the safety of our staff and our students is our highest priority. All our first aid courses are undertaken using the latest scientific advice, training guidelines and government recommendations. All our course attendees are asked to listen carefully and follow the advice of our instructor team who will be present throughout your training with us.

First and foremost, if you are displaying any COVID-19 symptoms then we insist that you follow the government guidelines to stay at home and self-isolate.  In this instance, please DO NOT ATTEND our courses.  Failure to do so will mean that you will be removed from the course.

All of our staff will have undertaken a Lateral Flow Test on the first day of your course. In the unfortunate circumstance that all staff need to isolate we will contact you to rearrange your training as per our terms and conditions.

During your Course

On arrival, you will be asked to use the hand sanitiser provided and / or wash your hands.

We recommend that you check-in to our location with the NHS COVID-19 Test & Trace app QR code

We will ask everyone to cleanse their hands before, during and after all the practical sessions as well as when they return to the training room following breaks.

Regular hand washing is better than hand sanitiser – do you know how to correctly wash your hands? Are you sure about that? 

On our longer courses, this is one of the exercises we run and, so far, we have only had ONE class that ALL correctly washed their hands. How do we do this? – join us to find out!

Throughout your course, you will be reminded of the need to regularly wash/sanitise your hands and the importance of barriers.

Each student will be provided with their own manikin for their sole use throughout the course, plus a full set of personal barrier materials..

Tea and coffee making facilities are available throughout our courses. Students should only make their own drink and ensure there is only one person at a time in the refreshment area. Hand sanitiser is available, and we ask you to use it before making your drink.

If someone develops COVID-19 symptoms while on one of our courses, we will ask you to self-isolate. All delegates will be asked at the end of their course to tell us if they develop symptoms.  This enables us to identify all other course attendees and contact them to let them know if they should self-isolate.


We undertake training on behalf of businesses, schools, gyms and others in their preferred location. It is your responsibility to have undertaken a risk assessment to ensure that it is suitable for the agreed number of attendees to maintain a safe distance from each other whilst undertaking the various elements of the course. If you are not sure then we are happy to come out and work with you to achieve the requirements for the course.

Our numbers have always been low when training in our own classroom. This provides a better environment for interaction with plenty of time for the practical elements of the course.  Our course attendees have told us that they really like this approach and it works really well.  These measures are particularly appropriate during these COVID-aware times.

Our classroom has a dehumidifier running with the indoor humidity level keeping the relative humidity value at 40% and 60%.

Where appropriate, doors and windows will be opened to circulate the classroom air and for added ventilation.

Laerdal Manikins

The manikins we use are all from the well-known and highly respected manufacturer Laerdal.

All have one-way valves. These stop air coming back out of the manikin’s mouth and direct expired air out of the back of the head via a filter.

If manikins are used for a two-person training skill, additional procedures are in place that include using sanitising wipes to clean and disinfect all surfaces.

Our Laerdal manikins also provide real-time feedback. This gives students a chance to get competitive and to see who is the most effective at performing the skills they’ve learned. We guarantee you that by the end of the course EVERYONE will be extremely effective and very competent at delivering the skills they’ve been taught.

HSE requirements

For our workplace courses, the HSE requires all students to demonstrate Rescue Breathing and CPR skills. Our training procedures and cleaning regimes follow all the official guidance and recommendations, allowing us to confidently teach these specific skills in our training courses.

After the Course


After each first aid course, our manikin t-shirts are removed, along with their faces, and are all washed in the washing machine or dishwasher and properly dried. We do get some funny looks from the neighbours when the washing line is full of faces, but we think they’ve got used to us now!

All manikin lungs are removed and thrown away at the end of the course. Each manikin body is carefully washed and fully disinfected.

Other Training Aids

All training aids are throughly disinfected prior to being packed away.

The Classroom is cleaned and isolated for 48 hours before our next course starts.


If anyone needs to isolate after the course, we will contact all attendees to let them know.

About Rutland First Aid Training

We specialise in running high quality first aid training in small groups. We concentrate on providing everyone with the skills and confidence needed in a real emergency.  This will ensure that you are prepared to undertake the various first aid skills needed to improve the casualty’s chance of survival.

We run a variety of courses including the Airborne Pathogen Awareness course, click the button below to find out more.

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How to be overtaken by a 999 vehicle

Am I legally obliged to move over for emergency vehicles?

The Highway Code states that you should ‘consider the route of such a vehicle and take appropriate action to let it pass, while complying with all traffic signs’.

Rule 219 of the Highway Code states that drivers should “look and listen for ambulances, fire engines, police, doctors or other emergency vehicles using flashing blue, red or green lights and sirens or flashing headlights, or traffic officer and incident support vehicles using flashing amber lights.”

What counts as an emergency vehicle?

An emergency vehicle is classed as a vehicle used:

  • for police purposes (but not necessarily a police vehicle, e.g. search and rescue)
  • for firefighting purposes (but not necessarily a fire brigade vehicle) including local councils and the Forestry Commission as well as fire salvage work
  • for ambulance purposes (but not necessarily an ambulance vehicle, e.g. cave rescue) including the movement of sick, injured or disabled people and for moving human organs
  • for bomb disposal
  • for nuclear accidents
  • for mountain rescue
  • by the Royal Air Force Armament Support Unit
  • by the National Blood Service
  • by HM Coastguard
  • for mine rescue
  • by the RNLI for launching lifeboats
  • by HM Revenue and Customs for serious crime
  • by the military special forces (e.g. the SAS) for a national security emergency

How to be overtaken safely

When you spot an emergency vehicle approaching with its lights flashing you should consider the route it is likely to take, then take an appropriate action to let it pass.

You can pull to the side of the road and stop but you must avoid doing this on a bend, narrow section of the road or before the brow of a hill, which could put the emergency vehicle into the path of oncoming traffic.

Even when you are in the process of letting an emergency vehicle pass, it is important to continue obeying nearby traffic signs, because you will still be liable to prosecution if you break any motoring laws, while allowing an emergency vehicle to pass by.

Also, avoid mounting the kerb, braking harshly on the approach to a junction or roundabout. Using your driving awareness, avoid any action that could put pedestrians or other road users in danger.

No driver should move into a bus lane or run a red light move out of the way for an emergency vehicle – this could land you a fine if you do. The 999 crews know that motorists are not allowed to ‘jump’ a red light. The only exception would be if a uniformed police officer directed a motorist through a red traffic signal.

It is advised that drivers do not overtake emergency vehicles while on pursuit and, if one has passed them to wait and follow at a safe distance.

If you are on a road with solid white lines then keep driving at the speed limit as the emergency vehicle will wait until you’re past the white lines. Usually the vehicle’s sirens will come back on and it will overtake.

Drivers should also keep going on an approach to a bend or brow of a hill, until the road ahead is clear.

Always check your mirrors to see what signals the emergency response vehicle might be making. If it is a police car, look carefully, as it may be signalling you to stop.

Are you Blue Light Aware?

Do Emergency Vehicles have to follow any rules?

With ambulances now expected to reach the most seriously ill patients in an average time of seven minutes, there is more pressure to reach destinations faster. 

But drivers of emergency vehicles have laws and rules they must follow, even in an emergency. These rules are in place so as not to force other road users into illegal manoeuvres.

For example, emergency vehicles should turn their sirens off at junctions while traffic lights are on red, to avoid encouraging other drivers to jump a red light.

Most drivers of emergency vehicles undergo advanced driving courses and official training is required if that driver wants exemption from speed limits, where necessary.

They are granted certain exemptions from the law in emergency circumstances, including:

  • They can disobey the speed limit.
  • Pass on the wrong side of a keep left bollard.
  • Treat red traffic lights as a give way sign.
  • Drive on a motorway hard shoulder, even against the direction of traffic.
  • They can use bus lanes, even if in use to reduce the effect of congestion on public transport.

However, there are also many laws emergency vehicles cannot ignore, even when answering a 999 call. They should not:

  • Ignore ‘stop’ or ‘give way’ signs.
  • Ignore ‘no entry’ signs.
  • Drive through a one-way street in the wrong direction.
  • Ignore flashing signs at level crossings or fire stations.
  • Fail to stop if involved in a Road Traffic Accident
  • Cross a solid white line down the middle of the road. That is unless, like for other road users, it is done to pass a stationary vehicle, slow-moving cyclist or horse, or a road maintenance vehicle.
  • Fail to obey traffic lights controlling a Railway Level crossing or Fire station
  • Drive without a seat belt
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