Gym Defibrillators

Gym Defibrillators


Automated external defibrillators (AEDs) have become an integral part of saving lives in the United States today. AEDs are the only piece of equipment outside of a medical setting that can be used to save the life of a sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) victim. With SCAs striking approximately 250,000 Americans every year, making sure that AEDs are available in public places has become important for small, medium and large sized communities across the U.S. Many states have even passed laws requiring that health clubs, fitness centers and gyms have AEDs available for sudden cardiac arrest emergencies.

The American Council on Exercise (ACE) and the American Heart Association (AHA) have started working together in the hopes of saving more SCA victims’ lives. Health clubs and fitness centers are places where individuals may have an increased risk of cardiac arrest. Providing AEDs and training employees on their use can help ensure that lives will be saved by early intervention.


The program that ACE and AHA have developed is a seven hour training course that covers both cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and AED training. This course provides fitness center employees with lifesaving skills needed to care for an SCA victim until EMS responders arrive to take over.

Sudden cardiac arrest occurs when a person’s heart starts to beat erratically; this is known as ventricular fibrillation (VF). VF can happen from a blow to the chest, overexertion while exercising, or for other unknown reasons. After VF starts, the victim quickly loses consciousness and then stops breathing. If defibrillation (an electric shock to the heart) is not delivered within three to five minutes, the resulting effect can be brain damage. If more than five minutes passes, death may result. The chances of a victim surviving an SCA decrease by ten percent for every minute that passes without treatment.

On the morning of June 8, 2010, 80 year old Clifford Ray was working out at his Hollister, California Gold’s Gym. At 9:30 he was discovered on the leg-lifting machine, slumped over and lifeless. Gold’s Gym employee Josh Buzzetta was immediately called over to assist Mr. Ray. Mr. Buzzetta checked for a pulse and upon finding none, knew he had to begin CPR and possibly defibrillate Mr. Ray’s heart. Mr. Buzzetta called 911, grabbed the AED and with the help of his friends, Joe Perry and Jason Broyer, began administering CPR. After two sets of CPR had been completed, the three rescuers hooked the AED up and administered one shock to Mr. Ray’s chest. He began to breathe and a faint pulse was detected. Paramedics soon arrived and transported Mr. Ray to the hospital. If it weren’t for the quick thinking and quick reactions of these three men, Mr. Ray most likely would have died.

Sudden cardiac arrest is not the same as a heart attack and cannot be treated in the same way. Heart attacks are generally caused by a blockage in the arteries and are accompanied by warning signs that can occur sometimes days or even weeks in advance. SCA usually happens without warning and without regard to age or social or economic status. Children, teenagers, adults and the elderly can all be victims of sudden cardiac arrest. But the older the person or the more out of shape he or she is, the higher their risk of SCA are.


The health care business is big business in the United States and as such, health clubs, fitness centers and gyms need to pay close attention to making their facilities as safe as possible for their patrons. As many as 30% of the U.S. population is considered obese (having a BMI (body mass index) of 30 or more) and if this trend continues as many as 43% may be obese by 2018! With statistics like this, it’s easy to see why health clubs have continued to be a popular choice for Americans seeking to improve their health and lose weight. Along with this increased interest though, comes the risk of someone over doing their exercise and suffering a sudden cardiac arrest during their workout. People are urged to get physicals and check with their physicians before beginning a workout program, but SCA is almost never able to be predicted. Having an AED on hand in every health club, fitness center and gym, and having the health club employees trained on their use is of the utmost importance.

David Madden knows this all too well. On April 18, 2010, Mr. Madden was working out at his Newburyport, Massachusetts, Fitness Factory Health Club, when his heart stopped beating and he collapsed. He was getting ready to refill his water bottle after completing a workout on the treadmill. He felt dizzy and passed out. Luckily, Amy Aldrich, a cardiac nurse, and Janet Nicolaisen, a certified EMT, were nearby. Someone asked the front desk to call 911 and Ms. Aldrich and Ms. Nicolaisen rushed to Mr. Madden to administer help. Lois Chapman and Stacy Maxon, two Fitness Factory employees brought the automated external defibrillator over. The unit had been purchased seven years ago and had never been used. But 24 seconds after it was turned on, Mr. Madden received an electric shock. His heart began beating and he regained consciousness. Ms. Nicolaisen said that in her 21 year EMT career, she has never had a patient wake up after a cardiac arrest! Kate Hudson, a co-owner of the club said and that all their employees take a mandatory three hour training course on the use of the AED unit and on CPR. She said the AED is easy to use and won’t administer a shock unless no pulse is found.

The International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA), a certification agency for personal trainers now requires that all students who enroll in one of their certification courses submit proof that they have been AED and CPR certified. Eleven states and the District of Columbia all have laws requiring that health clubs have at least one automated external defibrillator onsite.

In Illinois, effective January 1, 2005, a new law went into effect. The Colleen O’Sullivan law was enacted in honor of 30 year old Colleen O’Sullivan, who died while working out at her health club in August, 2002. For reasons unknown to her family and friends, an AED was available at the club, but no one used it. The law requires Illinois health clubs (as well as golf courses and school gyms) to have at least one AED onsite. And, it requires that each facility train its employees on AED use.

Ensuring the safety as well as the health of their patrons is a big responsibility for health clubs, fitness centers and gyms. Adding automated external defibrillators to the list of safety equipment is a good start.

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