Sudden cardiac arrest is one of the leading causes of death in the United States, impacting an estimated 1,000 people every day. It can occur without warning anytime, anywhere, to anyone at any age.
Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) has been a mainstay for decades and can be very helpful to those in cardiac arrest. Still, CPR alone is unlikely to restart the heart. The main purpose of CPR is to extend the window of opportunity for a successful resuscitation without permanent brain damage by restoring partial flow of oxygenated blood to the brain and heart.
This is where AEDs have become a powerful tool locally for much of the past decade. Short for automated external defibrillator, an AED is a portable electronic device that automatically diagnoses those who may be in cardiac arrest. While not as sophisticated as the defibrillators used by health professionals, the simple and straightforward commands the devices give can help even a layperson provide electrical therapy, if necessary, in an attempt to re-establish an effective heart rhythm for someone in cardiac arrest.
The New Albany Police Department began installing AEDs in police cruisers about 10 years ago.
“Our officers have used them multiple times while responding to emergencies,” says Chief of Police Mark Chaney. “We often jointly respond to an emergency with a fire department. Since our cruisers are often already out patrolling the community, an officer may arrive on scene first. Having AEDs in our police cruisers allows us, as potential first responders, to have the best chance of re-establishing heart rhythm when time is of the essence. Then, when the medics arrive, they can take over.”
Due in part to the success of the devices in police vehicles, New Albany officials purchased AEDs in 2009 for three municipal buildings – Village Hall, the police station and the public service headquarters.
“Having AEDs in our buildings serves two purposes,” says City Manager Joseph Stefanov. “First, these AEDs are available if any of our staff would fall victim to cardiac arrest. Second, with many public meetings in our facilities, there is a chance that a visitor could go into cardiac arrest. We’ve never had an occasion to use the AEDs we purchased for our buildings, but I’m happy to say that we have them if such a situation arises.”
When city officials purchased more defibrillators for their buildings in 2009, they also purchased two for the New Albany-Plain Local Joint Parks District, and the district purchased a third AED on its own at that time. Two of these are kept at Bevelhymer Park, and one is kept at Thompson Park. While the district’s defibrillators have never been deployed for an emergency, Parks & Recreation Director Dave Wharton also appreciates having them. “With so many recreational activities occurring in our parks, there will come a day when something happens. We routinely let our league coaches know where our AEDs are stored during pre-season coaches’ meetings, should an emergency occur,” Wharton says.
The New Albany-Plain Local Schools have 15 defibrillators on the campus – at least one in each building, including the McCoy Center.
“Having the AED resources available on our school campus is an investment in safety for our students, staff and the community,” says Barry Zwick, the center’s interim director for operations and planning. “One of our devices has been deployed over the time that we have had them, and it is credited with helping to save the life of one of our parents.”
The Plain Township Fire Department equips all front line fire vehicles with AEDs or full heart monitors and it places a defibrillator at the Plain Township Aquatic Center during the summer. The fire department also routinely trains the community on the use of AEDs as part of its ongoing CPR/ACLS certification, and all known device locations are logged in its dispatcher computer system. This data allows fire dispatchers at the Metropolitan Emergency Communications Center serving New Albany to direct 9-1-1 callers to specific locations in buildings where AEDs are placed, if one is available at the site of the incident, so they can be used in emergency situations before the professionals arrive on scene.
When it comes to cardiac arrest emergencies, Assistant Fire Chief Jack Rupp encourages people to use CPR and AEDs depending upon the situation.
“First and foremost, it is important to call 9-1-1 as soon as possible to start the professional response in motion,” Rupp says. “Those with access to AEDs should definitely use them. They are simple to use, provide good instructions and perform electrotherapy only when necessary. Those who don’t have access to an AED should perform CPR after they have called 9-1-1 until medics arrive or risk losing potentially lifesaving minutes. In short, call professionals, have an emergency plan and practice your plan so that it becomes second nature.”
Scott McAfee is the New Albany public information officer and a contributing writer. Feedback welcome at email@example.com.