AED or CPR, Which Comes First?

AED vs CPR - Which Comes First?

April 12, 2021

Sudden cardiac arrest is a very time critical emergency. When someone suffers a sudden cardiac arrest, it is crucial that CPR is provided immediately and an Automated External Defibrillator (AED) is used quickly to help save their life. When this happens, survival rates from sudden cardiac arrest can go up.

When someone suffers sudden cardiac arrest, which comes first: using the AED or providing CPR? Every situation is different. We will discuss some different scenarios below.

Scenario 1: You witness the sudden cardiac arrest in a crowd of people

If you witness the sudden cardiac arrest and there are people around, you want to first tell someone to call 9-1-1 and then tell someone to go get the AED. Make it very clear who should do each task by pointing at the person and yelling their name. Then, start performing CPR immediately and don’t stop until the person comes back with the AED. Use the AED as soon as it arrives!

Scenario 2: You witness the sudden cardiac arrest alone with a person and know there is an AED you can retrieve and get back to the person within 3 minutes.

It is not an ideal situation if you witness the sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) and nobody is around to help. Although CPR is very important, when someone is in cardiac arrest, they ultimately need to be shocked by an Automated External Defibrillator. If you know there is an AED in the building that you are in or close to you (ideally within 3 minutes), call 9-1-1, run and grab the AED, use it, and then provide CPR after the first shock when the AED tells you to.

Scenario 3: You witness the sudden cardiac arrest alone with a person and there is no AED you can get within 3 minutes.

If you witness a cardiac arrest alone with someone in a remote area where there is no AED, you have to do the best you can. First, call 9-1-1 right away and put your phone on speaker mode, next to the person's head. Listen to the 9-1-1 dispatcher as they give you instructions. Then, immediately start performing CPR. Provide CPR until an ambulance arrives.

As you can see, every sudden cardiac arrest scenario can be treated differently. The most important thing to remember is by either providing CPR or using an AED you are doing everything you can do to help the person. Don’t hesitate and worry that you will do something wrong. By providing CPR and using an AED, you are giving the person the absolute best chance of survival!

To learn more about Defibtech and to join us on our quest to save lives from sudden cardiac arrest, visit