Assessing whether you need a locked or unlocked cabinet

Posted on 14 April 2020

Why is there a choice?

A locked cabinet has a combination code protecting the cabinet, and therefore it can only be accessed by someone who has the code. When a cabinet is registered, the ambulance service record the location and code, then in an emergency they can provide a member of the public with this information so they can access the defibrillator.

An unlocked cabinet does not have any lock on it, so, anyone can access the defibrillator at any time. However, it is always necessary to call 999 when someone has a suspected Cardiac Arrest as you will always need the backup of a paramedic, even is the patient makes a full recovery.

Why would you buy an unlocked cabinet?

Unlocked cabinets remove the delay in calling 999 and obtaining the code before the defibrillator can be accessed. Whilst it is still necessary to call 999, if this can be done at the same time as obtaining the defibrillator you may save essential minutes.

They are popular in rural locations where phone signal may be poor and at private companies such as golf clubs and business sites.

The Community Resuscitation Steering Group for England recommend that unlocked cabinets are used where possible, however, a risk assessment should be undertaken for each specific location and a careful decision made as to what is best for your site.


Benefits of a locked cabinet

Locked cabinets provide that extra layer of security. Sadly, defibrillators do get stolen. With defibrillators costing in the region of £1000 it is significant financial risk to have a defibrillator unlocked and accessible to anyone at any time. Having a locked cabinet does not prevent the code being shared locally and the Ambulance Service are very efficient at providing the code when required in an emergency. The code on the cabinet can be set to something memorable or meaningful.

Turtle Defib Cabinets research shows that 90% of cabinets sold over the past 8 years are locked. We fully support the recommendations of the Community Resuscitation Steering Group and really believe a site-specific risk assessment should be conducted by the party purchasing and deploying the defibrillator before a decision is made.