Can I accidentally shock someone, other than a SCA victim, with an AED?

Can I accidentally shock someone, other than a SCA victim, with an AED?

person holding defibrillator paddles

As one of the most frequently asked questions of lay responders, it’s important to know the answer. Any lay responder should feel comfortable using an Automated External Defibrillator (AED) to save a victim of Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA). An electric shock is intended to be delivered to restart the heart by sending the therapy from one electrode pad to another.  A defibrillation shock can be very dangerous if delivered to a person who does not need the treatment.  However, AEDs are extremely safe and have built in features that prevent a shock when it is not needed.

To keep bystanders and responders safe during an SCA rescue, the responders should follow the Chain of Survival in addition to the basic procedures given by the AED. This includes listening to voice prompts that remind bystanders to “Stay Clear” of the victim.  The AED will give the responders step-by-step instructions. The only way a defibrillator can shock someone other than the victim, is if bystanders do not stand clear of the person being shocked.

By follow these steps, given by the American Red Cross, you can confidently perform a successful save:

  1. Turn on the AED and follow the visual and/or audio prompts.
  2. Open the person’s shirt and wipe his or her bare chest dry before attaching pads/electrodes.
  3. Attach the AED pads/electrodes and make sure that the connector is plugged in.
  4. Make sure no one is, including you, is touching the person. The device will prompt everyone to “stand clear.”
  5. Allow the AED to analyze the person’s heart rhythm.
  6. If the AED recommends a shock to the person, make sure that no one, including you, is touching the person.
  7. After the shock is delivered, the AED will tell you to begin CPR. Begin CPR after delivering the shock. If no shock is advised, begin CPR. If you notice obvious signs of life, discontinue CPR and monitor breathing for any changes in condition.



If you still have questions about Sudden Cardiac Arrest, you can always leave us a comment, give us a call at 800-580-1375, or email us at


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