Being Fully Prepared: Why You Absolutely Need A Gym AED

When it comes to protecting your members and your business, it's important to have a gym AED. Vaughn Vernon of Affiliate Guard answers the important FAQs.

Emily Beers
April 4, 2023
Being Fully Prepared: Why You Absolutely Need A Gym AED
When it comes to protecting your members and your business, it's important to have a gym AED. Vaughn Vernon of Affiliate Guard answers the important FAQs.

It’s the one piece of equipment in your fitness business that you hope you and your coaches never have to use: A gym AED.

An AED - or automated external defibrillator - is a medical device that analyzes the heart’s rhythm. In the event of sudden cardiac arrest, and if necessary, it delivers an electric shock to help reestablish an effective rhythm.

All 50 states have laws or regulations in place for AEDs to be available in public gathering places. However, the requirements for fitness businesses vary by state.

Train staff for CPR and using gym AED
Train staff in CPR and ensure they know how to use the gym AED.

Vaugh Vernon is the owner of Affiliate Guard, an insurance company with more than 2,500 gym clients around the world. Today, Vernon wants to help gym owners be prepared. AEDs are just one of the many gym legal issues that might arise, so he’s sharing advice, stories and frequently asked questions.

Two Different Gyms, Two Different Outcomes.

In 2019, a gym in Washington State had a member go into cardiac arrest at the gym.

They called 911, deployed their AED and performed CPR until paramedics arrived. Despite the gyms’ best attempts, the member passed away after being transported to the hospital.

In the aftermath, the family of the deceased tried suing the gym for wrongful death.

“This is by far the worst thing that can happen to a gym owner,” said Vernon. “You do everything you can and now the family is coming after you.”

Ultimately, the gym won the lawsuit as a result of the Good Samaritan Law. This means they had a gym AED and they did everything they could to try to revive the individual.

In contrast, Vernon’s company once insured a gym that did not have an AED. The situation played out similarly, and the ex-wife of the deceased sued the gym for wrongful death.

The case went all the way to the Supreme Court. In the end, the judge ruled against the gym. According to the ruling, the member’s life could’ve potentially been saved with a gym AED. As a result, Vernon’s company had to pay out $2.5 million.

Ruling in gym lawsuit

Common Gym AED Questions:

1. Won’t I be liable if my AED doesn't save the member’s life?

Vernon says that the long and short of it is no, you won't be liable. In fact, he says the Washington State gym example above reiterates this point.

“If you’re certified in CPR and you have an AED, you’re not negligent,” he said.

2. Why do I have to have a gym AED if it’s not guaranteed to save a life?

Unfortunately, the truth is that some people cannot be saved by an AED. Vernon says that among his 2,500+ gyms, cardiac arrest accounts for an average of six fatalities each year.

But there’s good news. Despite some attempts that didn’t succeed, there are a multitude of accounts where an AED saved a member’s life.

In fact, here are three recent examples where a gym AED did save a members life:

3. Is an AED hard to use?

Vernon assures gym owners that they’re incredibly easy to use. For example, the machine will actually walk you through every step of the process.

Above all, he recommends making sure your entire staff is CPR certified and trained to use the gym AED.

CPR training for gym safety
Require coaches to maintain CPR certification for gym safety.

4. Does brand or type or price matter?

The good news is that you really can’t go wrong with any type of AED.

AEDs are so highly regulated that any model would be suitable for a gym, explained Vernon.

He made sure to remind fitness business owners to ensure you’re changing the battery and pads as needed in your AED. Some machines will beep to indicate that the battery is low. But no matter what, a regularly-scheduled equipment check is never a bad idea.

5. Is it illegal not to have a gym AED?

In 15 U.S. states, it is now illegal not to have a gym AED. Therefore, this is an indication from lawmakers about how imperative it is for your fitness business to be prepared.

In Summary: Avoid The Risk. Protect Your Gym.

An AED is one of those things that you hope you never have to use. But as Vernon reminded us, it’s a “necessary cost of doing business.”

“If you don’t have an AED on site, it’s just irresponsible,” he said.

In fact, he believes so strongly in it that his insurance company no longer takes on a new client unless they have an AED.

On the whole, it’s just not worth the risk. Investing the effort into putting a gym AED in your facility, and training your staff to use it, could mean the difference between life and death.

Emily Beers

Emily Beers is a health, fitness and nutrition writer. She has also been coaching fitness at MadLab School of Fitness in Vancouver, B.C. since 2009.

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