Crash cart supply & equipment checklist

Crash cart supply & equipment checklist
  • February 19, 2024

In a medical emergency, quick access to life-saving equipment and medications is crucial. This is where the crash cart, also known as a code cart, plays a pivotal role. Stocked with essential supplies tailored for emergency interventions, the crash cart is a mobile unit designed to provide immediate medical response. 

From cardiac arrest to respiratory failure, having a well-equipped crash cart readily available can make a significant difference in patient outcomes. In this article, we will delve into the vital components of a crash cart checklist for equipment and supplies,  emphasizing the significance of meticulous preparation and maintenance in healthcare settings.

Exploring the Contents of a Crash Cart: Understanding its Importance.

A crash cart is a vital piece of equipment found in healthcare settings, designed to provide immediate access to life-saving medications and medical devices in emergencies. Understanding the contents of a crash cart is crucial for healthcare professionals to be prepared to respond swiftly and effectively to medical emergencies that might also involve first aid and CPR.

  •  Medications:

The crash cart meds contain a variety of emergency medications such as epinephrine, atropine, adenosine, and naloxone, among others. These medications are carefully selected to address various life-threatening conditions such as cardiac arrest, anaphylaxis, arrhythmias, and opioid overdoses.

  •  Emergency Equipment:

In addition to medications, the crash cart is equipped with essential medical devices including defibrillators, suction units, airway management tools, and intravenous access supplies. These items are critical for airway management, cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), and rapid intervention in emergencies.

  • Documentation and Supplies:

The crash cart should also contain documentation forms for recording the use of medications and supplies. Additionally, it should be stocked with basic supplies such as gloves, gauze, syringes, and needles to ensure healthcare providers have everything they need to deliver immediate care.

ACLS Crash Cart Requirements: Essential Equipment and Medications

In medical emergencies, an Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS) crash cart is a critical resource for healthcare providers, containing specialized equipment and medications necessary for managing cardiac arrest and other life-threatening cardiac events.

  • Essential Equipment:

The ACLS crash cart is equipped with specialized tools for advanced airway management, including endotracheal tubes, laryngoscopes, and airway adjuncts. Additionally, it contains a defibrillator for delivering electrical therapy, cardiac monitoring devices such as ECG monitors, and other equipment essential for resuscitation efforts, such as intravenous access supplies and emergency drug administration tools.

  • Specialized Medications:

The medications in an ACLS crash cart are carefully selected to address specific cardiac emergencies. These may include antiarrhythmic agents like amiodarone and lidocaine, vasopressors such as epinephrine, and medications for managing acute myocardial infarction, such as aspirin and nitroglycerin. Each medication serves a crucial role in stabilizing and supporting patients in cardiac distress.

  • Maintenance and Quality Assurance:

Regular maintenance and quality assurance checks are essential to ensure that the ACLS crash cart is continually stocked with up-to-date medications and functional equipment. This includes regular inspection of medication expiration dates, equipment functionality testing, and documentation of maintenance and restocking activities to guarantee the readiness of the cart for emergencies.

How to maintain a crash cart?

Maintaining a crash cart is essential for ensuring that it is always ready for immediate use in medical emergencies. Proper maintenance involves regular inspection, restocking, and documentation to guarantee that the cart is equipped with functional equipment and up-to-date medications.

  • Regular Inspection and Inventory Management:

One key aspect of maintaining a crash cart is conducting regular inspections to assess the condition and contents of the cart. This includes checking the expiration dates of medications and ensuring that all medical devices and equipment are in working order. Regular inventory management is essential to identify and replace expired medications, replenish used supplies, and verify that all essential items are present in the cart. 

  • Documentation and Quality Assurance:

Maintaining accurate documentation is another critical component of crash cart maintenance. This includes recording each instance of cart use, medication administration, and equipment checks. Documentation also involves tracking the expiration dates of medications and supplies, as well as documenting any maintenance or restocking activities. Quality assurance measures should be implemented to verify that the crash cart is compliant with regulatory standards, and regularly scheduled audits can help identify any deficiencies in the contents or functionality of the cart. 

Are Crash Carts Customizable?

While crash carts are typically standardized to ensure essential supplies are readily available, they can be customized to some extent to meet the specific needs of different clinical areas or patient populations.

  • Customization for Clinical Specialties:

Healthcare facilities may customize crash carts to align with the specific needs of different clinical specialties. For example, a crash cart in a pediatric unit may include specialized medications and equipment tailored for children, while a crash cart in a cardiac care unit may emphasize medications and devices specific to managing cardiac emergencies. Customization ensures that the contents of the crash cart are optimized to address the most likely medical emergencies within a particular clinical area.

  • Adaptation to Facility Protocols:

Crash carts can be tailored to align with facility-specific emergency protocols and formularies. Healthcare organizations may adjust the contents of crash carts to comply with their internal policies, formulary restrictions, or specific treatment guidelines. This may involve adding or removing certain medications or equipment to ensure that the crash cart is consistent with the facility’s standards and best practices for emergency care.

  • Flexibility for Emerging Needs:

In response to evolving medical practices and emerging threats, crash carts can be adapted to accommodate new treatments, medications, or equipment. For instance, during public health emergencies, such as a pandemic, crash carts may be modified to include additional supplies for infection control or specific medications associated with the treatment of the prevailing health crisis. This flexibility allows crash carts to be responsive to emerging needs and changing clinical requirements.

Who needs a crash cart?

A crash cart is a critical resource in healthcare settings, providing immediate access to life-saving medications and medical equipment for managing medical emergencies. Various healthcare settings and professionals rely on crash carts to ensure preparedness for rapid response to critical situations.

  • Inpatient Units and Hospital Departments:

In hospitals, crash carts are essential for inpatient units and various hospital departments, including emergency departments, intensive care units, cardiac care units, operating rooms, labor and delivery suites, and post-anesthesia care units. These settings frequently encounter medical emergencies, such as cardiac arrest, severe allergic reactions, respiratory distress, and other critical events, where immediate access to emergency medications and equipment is essential for patient care.

  • Outpatient Clinics and Surgery Centers:

Outpatient clinics and ambulatory surgery centers also benefit from having crash carts readily available. While the types of emergencies encountered in these settings may differ from those in inpatient units, the need for rapid access to emergency medications and critical equipment remains vital. Crash carts in outpatient settings are particularly important for managing urgent medical situations and providing initial stabilization before transferring patients to higher levels of care if needed.

  • Long-Term Care Facilities:

Long-term care facilities, such as nursing homes and assisted living facilities, also require crash carts to be readily accessible. While the types of emergencies in these settings may differ from acute care hospitals, the need for immediate access to emergency supplies is just as crucial. Crash carts in long-term care facilities are essential for managing medical emergencies, such as cardiac events, respiratory distress, and severe allergic reactions, among others, especially in populations with complex medical needs.


The widespread need for crash carts across various healthcare settings underscores their importance as a fundamental tool for ensuring timely and effective emergency response. Healthcare professionals in diverse clinical environments rely on crash carts and creating a crash cart checklist helps to provide immediate access to critical resources when managing medical crises.