While AEDs have recently gotten a lot of attention, CPR is a critical part of life-saving efforts says Capt. Steve Adelsberger of the Baltimore County Fire Department. "CPR and AEDs go together," he says. "CPR buys time until the AED arrives." Captain Adelsberger notes that CPR — focusing on chest compressions — is now taught in schools throughout Baltimore County, preparing young people to be aware and jump in to help in an emergency situation.

And with AEDs on the sidelines and trained teachers and students on the field and in the stands, Baltimore's athletes, coaches and parents have peace of mind and can keep their heads where they belong: in the game.

AED use tips from experts

When sudden cardiac arrest occurs, bystanders with access to an AED can make a big difference. Here, experts offer tips for handling the situation in the most effective manner:

First call 911: When faced with a cardiac event, bystanders should first contact emergency personnel, then administer aid. "Always call 911 first, begin CPR and use the AED as soon as possible," says Bob Peterhans, the general manager of emergency care and resuscitation at Philips Healthcare.

Then start CPR: If an AED is not immediately available, start chest compressions, advises Capt. Steve Adelsberger of the Baltimore County Fire Department. "It's pretty easy," he says. "You don't have to be perfect. Call 911 and start pressing on the chest until an AED arrives." He notes that simple CPR awareness training does not take long and that training focuses on chest compressions, not mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

Don't be intimidated: Bystanders should "feel confident they can only help an individual suffering sudden cardiac arrest if they act quickly and use an AED," says Peterhans. Dr. Theodore Abraham, director of the Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy Clinic at Johns Hopkins, agrees, saying, "People should not be intimidated. The whole point is to make AEDs easy to use."

Follow directions: AED units are equipped with directions on the outside. Make sure the chest area is dry, then "for the most part, it involves placing the patches on someone's chest and hitting the power button," says Abraham. "Step back and the machine takes over."

Get training: AEDs are designed to be easy to use, but everyone can benefit from training. Abraham suggests 20-minute AED/CPR classes, saying that "they're easier than they were even five years ago," and online instructional videos. Philips Healthcare recommends that schools implement education and training programs for personnel.

Info on the Web

•For more information about AED use and in-school training, visit the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation web site.

•To view a series of five videos demonstrating AED use, visit the Philips Healthcare Channel on YouTube.

•For more information about Johns Hopkins' Heart Hype program, visit their site.

AEDs for home use

While schools and other public places like stores and airports have increased the number of AEDs available to the public, in-home AEDs have also grown in popularity — and accessibility — over the past several years. Home AEDs were approved for sale by the Food & Drug Administration in 2002 and have been available over the counter since 2004. The Philips "HeartStart Home" costs approximately $1,500, and for individuals meeting certain medical criteria, that cost may be partially or completely covered by health insurance.