Emergency Preparedness

Security Professionals Need AED and CPR Training

Security officers may be first on the scene of a medical cardiac emergency involving an employee, customer, or other user of the facility being protected. Besides basic first-aid skills, they need to be ready to provide CPR support or be trained in the use of an AED.


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AED (automated external defibrillator) devices are common in public facilities like airports, malls, and government offices, but they may not be installed in office or factory sites that have security officers on duty. While some organizations provide basic cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) training to their employees, it’s more likely that not every employee will know how to operate an AED under the stress of a medical emergency. Although the devices are designed to use vocal commands and written instructions to walk the user through the process of attaching the chest patches and activating the defibrillator when told, getting formal training can help that process during a real event.

Some facilities with AEDs will train a cadre of employees to use them. These can be supervisory employees, employee volunteers who have had CPR training or who want to help, or those who are the designated “floor wardens” in facility fire, medical, or evacuation emergencies. This should include all contract or proprietary security officers, and if the contract firm doesn’t provide CPR training, then the organization should include those officers in employer-sponsored training. Local Red Cross and American Heart Association chapters can provide cost-effective CPR and AED training, either on-site or at their locations.

Although state “Good Samaritan” laws typically provide legal liability coverage for all persons who attempt first-aid, CPR, and AED uses for heart attack victims, it makes good legal sense to provide all employees with this training, so they don’t feel helpless at a medical scene. Similarly, training only certain employees in AED use, instead of all employees and security officers, probably guarantees the person with the AED training will not be on duty or at the facility in the event it needs to be used.

CPR training continues to evolve as emergency medicine learns from what patients really need. In the 80s, it was common to tell people taking CPR training to use a “precordial thump,” by giving a sharp blow to the chest, for any heart attack they witnessed. Since that move was not very effective and probably caused more damage to the patient, it was removed from the training advice. In the 1990s and 2000s, the appearance of HIV, AIDs, and hepatitis concerns, when connected to giving mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, led to the use of mouthpieces and similar guards that avoided skin on skin contact with the stricken patient. More recently, CPR training providers and emergency medicine physicians advocate the value of rapid chest compressions over mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, since keeping the brain supplied with blood is more critical than providing oxygen for the lungs.

Contract security firms should be ready to provide officers with basic first-aid, CPR, and AED training, to support the medical protection efforts of their clients.