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While there are no universally accepted annual rates of cardiac arrest on the global level, one group estimates approximately 7 million incidents annually, with 50,000 in France alone. The latest (2015) American Heart Association estimate for out-of-hospital cardiac arrests in the U.S. is 326,000 per year. Whatever the exact number, the reality is that when someone goes into cardiac arrest, it is usually to due to ventricular fibrillation; the heart stops pumping blood and starts to quiver uselessly due to abnormal electrical impulses. Without rapid treatment, the patient may have only a few minutes to live. CPR within two minutes can help extend the time period, but the best hope is the use of a defibrillator that shocks the heart back into normal sinus rhythm. Getting emergency care quickly is essential and even untrained bystanders can use automatic external defibrillators (AEDs) until professionals show up. But they need to know where the location of the nearest AED.

According to AEDMAP, the Staying Alive Foundation has records of more than 70,000 plus defibrillators locations in France, Switzerland, Belgium, the US, Australia, New Zealand and the United Arab Emirates. Anyone can download the free Staying Alive iOS or Android smartphone app. When you open the app with location services turned on, a screen opens with instructions to call emergency services number for your location immediately if you see an unconscious person who is not breathing. When you hit NEXT, the second screen shows how to do CPR and has a timer that beeps 100 times a minute for the proper pace for chest compressions. While you’re giving CPR, the application searches for the nearest AED. In my case in semi-rural North Carolina, the program reported no AEDs in the database within 10,000 meters so unless emergency services got here quickly, we’d have to keep up the CPR indefinitely. Other features of the app teach CPR, provide information about becoming a first responder, and list recent news articles about AEDs. The articles were first in French on my Android phone but they quickly changed to English: apparently Google Translate at work. You can also keep a record of local AEDs and file a report if you learn about a defective AED.

As the network of registered AEDs grows — both for the locations of individual devices as well as for the number of countries covered — it’s probably a good idea to keep AEDMAP on your phone. It could save someone’s life. It is noteworthy that the non-profit Staying Alive Foundation wasn’t started by a healthcare or a government entity, but rather by an individual who was surprised to discover a few years ago that while there were laws in Europe about having AEDs in public places, there was no easy way to find them.