MANY people will never have heard of or seen an automated external defibrillator (AED), let alone used one on another person.

But despite its complex-sounding name, a defibrillator is simple to use when trying to save someone’s life.

A defibrillator is a machine that gives the heart an electric shock in cases of cardiac arrest when the heart stops pumping blood around the body. It is often caused by a life-threatening abnormal heart rhythm called ventricular fibrillation.

Ventricular fibrillation occurs when the electrical activity of the heart becomes so chaotic that the heart stops pumping and quivers or fibrillates instead.

When this occurs, defibrilation needs to be prompt — either with a defibrillator in hospital or in a public place.

For every minute that passes without defibrillation chances of survival decrease by 14 per cent.

Research shows that applying a controlled shock within five minutes of collapse provides the best possible chances of survival, which is why The Bolton News is campaigning to make defibrillators available in public places, and for children to learn how to give CPR while they are waiting for a defibrillator to be used.

As well as asking schools to teach life-saving skills, we are also supporting the Hearts and Goals campaign, run by Bolton Wanderers, the North West Ambulance Service, Bolton Wanderers Community Trust and the Arrythmia Alliance.

The aim is to get more defibrillators available in public places.

Experts say defibrillators need to be placed strategically in areas where there is a high chance of someone suffering a cardiac arrest and where it is difficult for an ambulance to get to quickly. Shopping centres, leisure centres, train stations and remote rural areas are ideal locations, experts say. Anyone can use a defibrillator, but it is preferable that people receive CPR training first which can buy valuable time when someone is having a cardiac arrest.

The defibrillator pads, which are placed on a person’s chest, will detect electrical activity in the heart and the machine can tell if a shock is needed.

If a shock is not needed, the defibrillator will not deliver a shock, even if the button is pressed.

Defibrillators are available to buy from variety of sources, from Amazon to charities, and can cost anything between £600 and £2,000. But it is advised to go through a charity or organisation that can offer life-saver training and guidance.

Grants are also available for organisations trying to purchase a defibrillator.

How and when to use a defibrillator:

What to do in an emergency IF someone collapses, here are the basic steps to follow, according to Steven Nicholls from the North West Ambulance Service.

l Check for danger l Check for a response — ask whether the person can hear you l Shout for help l Open the airway l Check for normal breathing. If they are not breathing, it is time to call 999. Ask another person to see if there is a defibrillator nearby.

l Start CPR until a paramedic or defibrillator arrives (30 chest compressions then two rescue breaths, repeated).

l Continue with CPR until a defibrillator or paramedics arrive.

l The rescuer must turn the defibrillator on, which then gives voice prompts, telling the rescuer what to do.

l The defibrillator has two pads, attached to the main body of the machine by wires. Place these pads into position on the person’s chest. The positioning is clearly marked on the device. The pads detect electrical activity in the heart and will be able to tell if a shock is needed.

l If a shock is not needed, the defibrillator will not deliver a shock. The machine will detect whether the heart is in fibrillation. If the heart is in defibrillation, the rescuer will be told to push the shock button.

l In between shocks, the rescuer will be instructed to continue with CPR.

l Repeat until paramedics arrive and take over.