PUBLICLY available defibrillators have saved an average of one life every six weeks over the past decade.
New Ambulance Victoria research found their use by bystanders boosts survival odds.
In evaluating use of defibrillators available in almost 100 locations state-wide, including at Melbourne Zoo, Federation Square and Melbourne Airport, AV found most people having a heart attack in a public place in 2002-13 got their initial shock treatment from emergency services.
But a growing number were defibrillated by good Samaritans.
Overall, such use of the machines jumped eleven fold in 11 years, from 1.7 to 18.5 per cent.
Every cardiac arrest victim defibrillated at the airport was treated by a bystander.
Farah Salem, 53, was dropping a friend off last year when he collapsed.
Lucy Hernandez, the check-in supervisor, did CPR and used the defibrillator.
“The ambulance officer said I was lucky to be alive and I couldn’t have picked a better place to have a heart attack,” Mr Salem said.
The study found survival rates for people defibrillated by a bystander were significantly higher than for those who got their first defibrillation from emergency services: 45 per cent versus 31 per cent.
“The sooner the shock is delivered, the better the chance of survival,” said AV’s Emergency Medical Response Co-ordinator, Ewan Humphrey.
Some people were scared to use the devices for fear of doing harm, but if a person were merely unconscious the defibrillator would detect that and not shock them, he said.
According to the research, which was published in the journal Resuscitation, greater public availability of defibrillators could further increase heart attack survival rates.