October 7, 2004

Sheriff’s Officers, Firemen Now Armed With Automated External Defibrillators

With all the medical television shows on the air today, most people are familiar with defibrillators, the machines that shock a victim’s heart rate back into rhythm.

Local emergency service workers are learning there is a little more to the machines than shouting “clear” to all those in contact with the victim before pushing the button. However, the training is well worth the time if the machines can be used to help save a life.

Thanks to a federal grant a number of new automated external defibrillator units are now in service with local law enforcement and fire and rescue units.

An Automated External Defibrillator (AED) is a small, lightweight device used to assess a person’s heart rhythm. If necessary, it administers an electric shock to restore a normal rhythm in victims of sudden cardiac arrest. The AED administers an electric shock through the chest wall to the heart. Built-in computers assess the patient’s heart rhythm, judge whether defibrillation is needed, and then administers an appropriate level of shock. Audible and/or visual prompts guide the user through the process.

When a person suffers a sudden cardiac arrest, chances of survival decrease by 7 to 10 percent for each minute that passes without defibrillation. A victim’s best chance for survival is when there is revival within four minutes.

Volunteers with the Scotland County Fire Department and officers from the Scotland County Sheriff’s Department have completed the two-hour training course to operate the portable units that have been added to the emergency service personnel’s inventory of life saving tools.

Anyone trained to use cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) can be trained to use an AED. Most AEDs are designed to be used by people without medical backgrounds, such as police, firefighters, flight attendants, security guards, and lay rescuers.

The sheriff’s department received two AED units as did the fire department. The purchase of the new machinery was made possible by a federal grant to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. As part of an effort to improve rural health care, more than $400,000 was spent to place approximately 380 AED units in service in rural Missouri.

Every year more than 950,000 adult Americans die from cardiovascular disease making it the #1 cause of death in America. Sudden cardiac arrest is blamed for more than 250,000 of those deaths, taking the victims before they can even reach a hospital.

The AED Plus units in place with the local EMS workers are used as a full resuscitation device. Not only does it help bring the heart rate back in line but it also reinforces the caregivers CPR training by giving voice and visual prompts while going through all the steps of administering CPR.

About the size of a laptop computer, an AED typically consists of a main unit that provides controls and instructions, and detachable electrodes that the rescuer puts on the victim’s body. The latest AEDs are remarkably simple to use. They automatically detect what treatment is appropriate for the victim and give rescuers instructions for administering treatment.

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