AEDs in the Camp Environment

An Automated External Defibrillator (AED) can be an effective, lifesaving tool for camps. AEDs are a lightweight, portable device that delivers an electric shock through the chest to the heart. The shock delivered can realign an irregular heart rhythm and allow a normal rhythm to resume during sudden cardiac arrest.

The American Camp Association Accreditation Standards recommends that a camp has continual access to an AED available to most of the camp population when individuals are present. (See more in the Accreditation Process Guide, standard HW.12.) Regardless of whether your camp is ACA Accredited or not, this is the industry standard.

The specific number of AEDs your camp will need, and the location where you will store them, will vary depending on your camp. You can use the criteria below to assess who you serve and what makes the most sense for your program:

Adult Programs
In the past, the most common situations that camps have needed to use AEDs on adults has either been in aquatic programs or at ropes courses. This is typically due to a medical event during lap swim time, or while on a ropes platform. Some things to consider are: 
  • How far away are the aquatic facilities and ropes courses from the main buildings, especially the medical center where AEDs are often located?
  • Are you able to retrieve and set-up the AED within 2 minutes?
  • If staff are not directly supervising the programs (for example rental groups or family camp), how will the camp communicate to adult participants the location of the AED and how to access it?
  • If rental groups are present at your camp, are AED details in the rental group information?
Youth Programs
In the past, the most common situation we have typically seen camps need to use AEDs on youth is in aquatic programs. This includes both outdoor pools and waterfronts. Camps usually store their AEDs either at the pool/waterfront or the health center. Some things to consider are: 
  • If the AED is stored at the Health Center, identify a person and process to get the AED to the location it is needed.
    • Create a back-up plan for this process. For example, if the camp nurse is responsible to bring the AED, but the nurse is not available, who is the back-up?
  • Practice how long it takes to get the AED from the Health Center (or stored location) to other locations in camp. It is recommended that the AED is able to be retrieved and set-up within 2 minutes.

Multiple Programs
In the event that your camp has large programs and/or different campuses, it is possible that you will need more than one AED. Based off these factors, determine how many you will need and where they will need to be stored.

Once your camp has decided how many AEDs are needed, and where they are going to be stored, it is also important that they are kept up with and managed properly. Having an AED where the batteries are dead, pads are expired, or staff who are not trained to use the AED will not be defensible if something were to happen. Therefore, it is recommended that your camp does the following:

  • Regular Testing: Have a plan in place to regularly test your AED.
    • Have a log where you track the date the AED was tested, the initials of who tested the log, and whether or not the AED battery worked.
      • Many camps insert that log inside the AED for easy access.
    • You don’t need to check the expiration of your AED pads each time, just make a note of when these expire so new ones can be ordered.
    • The AED should always have scissors available nearby to cut clothing, as well as a towel to dry a victim from water or sweat. (AEDs cannot be used on a wet body.)
  • PADs: When your AED pads expire, make sure you keep track of which pads are current/not expired. Based on your population, the camp should have both adult and pediatric pads available. Many camps will also save their expired pads and utilize those for training/practice.
  • Training: If an emergency were to happen at your camp, it will be extremely important that staff are prepared and ready to use the AED. We recommend a monthly, documented practice for staff who are trained on how to use AEDs during times of operation. This will ensure that their training is fresh in their mind, and hopefully minimize any delays in care. Below are some things to consider when training staff to use AEDs:
    • Record Keeping: Keep track of which staff are trained to use the AED and how often they practice.
    • AED Trainers: If you have an AED trainer, be sure it is the same model as what would be actually used in an emergency.
    • Expired Pads: As mentioned above, utilize expired pads for training. These are great to use so staff can understand what it is like to apply pads.
    • Practice cutting off clothes/swim suit: Recently, we have seen that some staff have been hesitant to cut off the clothing of a victim. To help staff feel more comfortable, and practice this skill, use some lost and found clothes from camp and put those on any mannequins that are used for training. In a lifesaving emergency, we want our staff to feel comfortable with this skill.

For additional information on using AEDs in the aquatic environment, please review our resource online.