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While we have yet to have any formal training with them, the last couple of times that Rebecca and I have undergone CPR training we have been exposed to AEDs (Automatic External Defibrillators). Thinking that it might be a good thing to have on a charter boat that deals with customers of unknown health, I posted a question about AEDs the other day on our Facebook page. The almost unanimous support for the idea didn’t really surprise me. What I did find rather amazing was how many people had first-hand experience using the units to save lives! The American Red Cross seems to support the idea…

The American Red Cross supports the position that improved training and access to AEDs could save 50,000 lives each year. The Red Cross believes that all Americans should be within four minutes of an AED and someone trained to use it.

While not inexpensive, perhaps we should invest in one, and of course get some training in their usage. I believe that Jeffrey and Karen from Active Captain have one on board their trawler. Anyone else have one on a boat?


  1. and a very good thing about these Mike is that even a non-trained individual can use one.

    As you know, they ‘talk’ to the operator and take one step by step through the procedure.

    Gotta be a good thing on a charter boat methinks.


  2. Hi Guys, As, a Firefighter/EMT, i believe that having an AED,is a good safety measure, you must remember, that other factors, will have to come into play,as to the survivability,of the cardiac arrest episode.Such, as prompt access to cardiac meds,during and after the episode,and degree of heart damage, during and after episode.I would also recommend, you equip yourself with an O2 cylinder and O2 masks such as non rebreathers, and Ambu Bag, to properly ventilate. And remember that simple Aspirin, is a good first step, also, if patient regains ,or is conscious. An AED, O2, and aspirin, are good first steps, before cardiac drugs, and prompt, medevac by coast guard, or other assisting medical, or maritime authority is feasible . Stay safe , Mark on S/V Gypsy

    • Marks comments are interesting, and valid, however “I would also recommend, you equip yourself with an O2 cylinder and O2 masks such as non rebreathers, and Ambu Bag, to properly ventilate” is somewhat OTT for normal circumstances and non professionals ( I was an EMT then MD) and I think is unnecessary, and inappropriate . One aspect of out of hospital arrest is the ability to get someone to definitive care rapidly. This is unlikely to be the case in a cruising situation. Beyond CPR (yes Aspirin) and possible AED ( the actual published evidence – not anecdotal- shows in an out of hospital situation when used by non-professionals their ability to improve outcomes is marginal at best , regardless of what the manufacturers will tell you) I would not go further. I worked at NASA on the ISS ACLS protocols and did the AED trials for the ISS, and again the improvement in long term survivability is marginal at best. There are many similarities between cruising and space. So stick to the basics. Learn BLS (Basic life support)/CPR carry aspirin. and possibly an AED. Remember that by training to do CPR /BLS and carrying an AED you also expose yourself to additional liability issues.

      • Re: liability issues… I may be wrong but I believe I have heard of the good samaritan laws that do not expose people to lawsuits if they act responsibly in good faith.

    • Use of some of that gear might require even more additional training, would it not?

  3. How fast and abundant are SAR-boats & helicopters on the region? They most likely have that equipment, so is it necessary for You to have?
    If cheap and easy to use – why not.

    I would still guess MOB would be more frequent than heart attacks.

    How accustomed will the customers be moving around the bobbing boat and how willing to wear a lifejacket?

  4. We do carry an AED onboard. My wife and I have been EMT’s for 21 years, are well trained in using them, and we’ve both used them in real situations.

    I honestly think that once you start down the path of, “should I get an AED or not?” – then you have to get one. They are not that expensive and coming across a situation a few years from now that would have been helped if only you had one is the worst type of feeling/memory you could have. The reality is that you’re most likely to use an AED onboard on someone you love. In that most awful of situations, you’ll want to know that you did everything possible, if not actually saved their life.

  5. A nice thing to have but if no trained and equipped medical
    help is available rather quickly, to administer proper treatment
    and medicine. We been advised by a Level 1 paramedic friend of ours
    ” If we don’t arrive in the next 15 minutes after the machine, you
    better be dead, life in not going to be beautiful for you and your
    relative” Hard reality of modern life.

  6. Off topic, but not. Here in the UK Defib units are being
    installed in retired old Phone Boxes ( yes the old red iconic
    ones), in “rural” areas. The benefit being a “non” medic can access
    the machine and operate it (with verbal guidance from the machine)
    , until the Paramedics show. …. So if I can operate one, why not
    you? Love your website, Capt Jack….

  7. Mike, I’m a pilot for United and we carry them on every plane we have. In many places of the world we are much like a boat in the ocean…ie, you might as well be on the dark side of the moon as far as getting outside help. Over the middle of the Atlantic or the Amazon Jungle at night there is no emergency room close by and AEDs have proven themselves to be valuable tools. The statistics my airline gives us are that we have a medical emergency in flight at least once a day somewhere in the world and many times the AED has meant the difference between a person dying or not. I have always planned on investing in an AED when I get out there cruising.

  8. These might be useful adds on too:

    You can’t do harm by giving Glucagen to a hypoglycemic person
    (might be unable to take honey or juice)

    Emergency treatment of life-threatening allergic reactions

  9. Having had a heart attack @ 52, just 3 days AFTER we got home from the BVI’s, I am 110% in favour of AED onboard. I am thankful that I had my attack at home vs. moored in The Bight.
    As per previous comments the first thing I did, while we waited for the firemen, was to chew on some baby ASA’s.
    I remember the 500# on my chest, the ambulance ride being like lying in the back of a pickup truck on a dirt road and the great nurses who cared for me.
    My wife remembers the cute firemen.

  10. When going through the mental checklist of things we would like to have on our future cruise, AED for sure makes the cut. I’ve been trained on them and witnessed 3 lives saved because of it. They’re super easy to use and are a worthy investment.

  11. I vote yes to get one.

  12. a. I imagine you would have some sort of simple health questionnaire regarding common risk factors. Every school field trip requires this. People can be “private” about information if they chose, at their own peril. I’ve never felt very privacy-concerned re. my medical info; I figure I’m just a human with a human body.

    b. Other than the usual traumas, the 2 conditions I have faced in the wilds or sailing have been allergic reactions and diabetes. Both are common and both are quite troublesome if away from help. I’ve posted about diabetes issues before and have that reasonably well covered because of my situation. Still, more than a certain distance from medical care it still makes me nervous. An epi pen and a glucagon kit (with training) may make sense.

    It’s a matter of how far you want to take. No one answer, but I’m guessing that the defibrilator is perhaps less likely to actually save a life in the field than some other simpler things.

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