Finding an AED in an Emergency

Sep 7, 2012, 9:00 AM, Posted by


Human Capital Blog: Why was it important to collect information about the location of AEDs?

Raina Merchant: Currently there is no comprehensive map or database of where all the AEDs are located—in Philadelphia or really anywhere. So when someone collapses, we have to rely on people remembering where they last saw an AED. In fact, most 911 centers don’t have databases of where AEDs are located. So, the likelihood of being able to find one in an emergency is pretty low, and as a result we have these lifesaving devices that are rarely used. We used the MyHeartMap Challenge, an innovation tournament to have the public find AEDs in Philadelphia, take a photo using a smartphone app, and tag their location so we can make this information available to anyone who needs it.

HCB: How many people or teams participated in the Challenge? How many AEDs were identified?

Merchant: We were really excited about the results. We had more than 330 participants (individuals and teams) who contributed data to the Challenge. They reported more than 1,500 locations of AEDs in the city of Philadelphia. We’re still trying to sort out who exactly participated, but we had representation from schools and health organizations, as well as a lot of individuals who recruited their friends, neighbors and colleagues.  We were worried that people would make up devices, submit false locations or send low-quality pictures, but we were really impressed with the quality of data we received. Every one took this challenge very seriously. The challenge had two winners who were each awarded $9,000 for reporting more than 430 AEDs each. Both winners were also over the age of 40.

HCB: What happens now with the information that was collected?

Merchant: We’re now in the process of validating all the information that was submitted during the contest, and we’re coordinating with the Philadelphia 911 Center so that they’ll have access to all this data in the event of an actual emergency. We are also expanding our existing mobile app so people can continue to submit information about where AEDs are located and, more importantly, find one closest to them in an emergency.

HCB: Are you planning to do this type of challenge in any other areas?

Merchant: Yes. We just received additional funding from the American Heart Association to expand to other large cities in Pennsylvania. We’re pulling together our lessons learned and developing a toolkit for the next innovation challenge so we can fine-tune our methods, and get more people to participate.

We continue to get AED location submissions from all over the world, particularly when people are on vacation, and we welcome those. They’ll go on our map, too. We’d also love for anybody who’s interested in hosting a Challenge in their city or state to contact us ( Our database is always open, and every location we get on the map is another chance to save a life.

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF Human Capital Blog. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the authors.