PUBLIC SAFETY/County fights cardiac arrest with AEDs
Owen County, Ind., is one of the first counties in the nation to equip public schools with automatic external defibrillators (AEDs), and the first county in Indiana to embrace a widespread program that will ultimately place 30 AEDs in fire departments, police vehicles and public buildings. By placing the units in multiple facilities, the county has been able to reduce response time to cardiac arrest victims and save lives.
Currently, the U.S. survival rate from cardiac arrest is only 5 percent, largely because defibrillation does not reach the victim in time. When sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) strikes, the definitive treatment – defibrillation – must take place within four minutes for emergency personnel to have the best chance of saving the victim’s life. In communities with early defibrillation response programs in place, the survival rate has jumped to more than 30 percent, according to an AED study at the Krannert Institute of Cardiology at Indiana University Medical Center.
For the past several years, Owen County has been working to reduce its emergency response time; some 911 calls had resulted in 20- to 30-minute waits for an ambulance. But the county did not have the funding for moreambulances, EMT personnel or even AEDs. In fall 1997, the county developed a p rogram – the Owen County Defibrillation Project – to fund and acquire AEDs for use throughout the community. Greg Van Hook, program director for the project, selected the Hewlett Packard Heartstream ForeRunner AED.
In March 1998, the county submitted a grant application requesting $100,000 from the Lilly Endowment, based in Indianapolis. (The nation’s largest private foundation, the organization distributes grants totaling about $240 million annually for community development, education and religion-based programs.) Funds were approved in September 1998, and the AED units were ordered in November.
Implementation began in early 1999. Owen County has since installed AED units in 13 police vehicles, nine fire departments, five public schools, the county jail and the courthouse. Throughout the county, police officers, firefighters and teachers have been trained, through the American Heart Association’s Heartsaver program, to respond to SCA using an AED, Van Hook says. Following voice prompts, trained individuals using an AED can administer the treatment needed to return a victim’s heart to its normal rhythm.
In rural Owen County, typical EMS response time prior to the widespread deployment of the AEDs averaged about eight minutes – too long to wait for a victim of SCA. By placing the devices throughout the community, the county has increased the odds of victims surviving a sudden cardiac arrest by cutting response time in half and enabling more trained responders to save lives.