PUBLIC SAFETY/Boston EMS, police hope to reduce cardiac deaths
Boston Emergency Medical Services has forged a partnership among local firefighters, police and other “first responders” in an effort to reduce deaths caused by the nation’s number one killer: sudden cardiac arrest.
The city of Boston recently purchased 100 automatic external defibrillators (AEDs) from Physio-Control International Corp., Redmond, Wash., at a cost of about $4,000 each. The units weigh 8 pounds and are about one square foot in size. Boston EMS had previously bought 85 defibrillators from the company.
The police department will equip strategic units with AEDs, while two major high-rise office buildings, the John Hancock Tower and the Federal Reserve Bank building, will keep AEDs on-site and employ security guards trained in their use.
All 1,650 firefighters are now equipped as first responders with CPR and defibrillation training, according to Boston Fire Commissioner Martin Pierce. “Since we began this effort, we’ve found that 35 percent of fire department runs are to medical emergencies,” he says.
Dr. Lawrence Mottley, medical director of Boston EMS, spearheaded the effort to coordinate a seamless cardiac response system throughout Boston city departments.
He oversaw equipment selection and training, developed a data management protocol, and has since worked closely with local hospitals to integrate them into the system.
Worldwide, about 1 million people die each year from sudden cardiac arrest. Defibrillation is the only effective treatment for its primary cause, but to be effective it must be delivered within a few minutes.
Through new technology and additional training, Boston officials expect to significantly increase the city’s cardiac arrest survival rate. Boston’s rate for all survivors has risen from 16 percent in fiscal year 1994 to 24 percent in FY96, second among U.S. cities only to Seattle’s 34 percent.