This article is about defibrillators in strata complexes.
Question: We would like to have a defibrillator in a common area in our strata building. What legal or other issues do we need to be aware of?
Answer: There are very few concerns with having an AED installed on common property.
With over 30,000 sudden cardiac arrests each year, it is not a surprise that the question of installing these life saving devices has arrived at the Strata doorstep.
Automatic External Defibrillators (AED) are designed to deliver a shock to the heart to return it to a normal rhythm. A defibrillator does not restart a heart once it has completely stopped but rather detect and treat (with electric pulse) an irregular heart rhythm commonly associated with sudden cardiac arrest. With nearly 60 Australians dying each day from abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmias), the AED truly is a lifesaving device.
Outside of a hospital, survival rates from sudden cardiac arrest are 10%. The presence and correct use of an AED can increase a person’s chance of survival to 70%. A person has the best chance of survival if a defibrillation shock is delivered within 3-5 minutes of them collapsing. That is certainly not enough time for an ambulance to arrive, but plenty of time for you to run to common property and grab the AED.
These devices SAVE LIVES
As with anything new brought into the realm of community/strata living, we must always consider legal ramifications and practicality.
Thankfully, in terms of risk management, there are very few concerns with having an AED installed on common property. The (certified) devices are all designed to only provide an electric shock on a heart that is experiencing irregular rhythm. An AED will NOT deliver a shock to a healthy heart or to a completely flatlined heart. So, the risk of accidental electrocution is near non-existent. Manufacturers and installers of these devices record very few tampers or vandalism issues even with devices left out in national parks and beaches. Having these devices fitted inside an alarmed cabinet also deters any tamper from residents, visitors and particularly children.
There are currently no regulations that a committee must follow when installing one of these devices, simply a minor maintenance routine. We would strongly suggest that members of the committee (and any residents willing) complete a short training course on how to use an AED.
An AED is simply another piece of first aid equipment that most first aiders can utilise to save a life.
Maintenance requirements are very minimal, the device simply needs to be tested (turned on) at a minimum of 12 month intervals and a light is displayed throughout the year showing it is operational. The batteries vary in their life expectancy with most having a 3- 5 year lithium battery fitted.
Simply install the device in easy view of a path of travel (ideally the building entrance or pool area), advise all residents of its purpose and location and check it each year.
I think we will soon see the AED a common place item in our strata buildings with South Australia currently in the process of passing a bill that will see AEDs MANDATORY in all commercial schemes and in all residential schemes of 10+ lots. No doubt, the rest of Australia will follow suit in time. Thankfully, in most states, the installation of these devices could be funded through the Sinking Fund/Capital Works Fund meaning you likely won’t need to levy owners any additional monies to provide this life saving device.
Such a simple decision to install an AED on your common property WILL mean the difference between life and death when a resident or visitor suffers a sudden cardiac arrest.
It may be a mum that has tripped down the stairs and hit her head whilst taking the kids to school. It may be the tradesperson that falls off the ladder. It may be the lovely old dear who lives in unit 3. At some point, this device will save a life, it may even be yours!
This post appears in the November 2021 edition of The WA Strata Magazine.
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