CPR, AEDs, and sudden cardiac arrest (SCA)

Yesterday I posted a column in which I contrasted two different incidents — both taking place within the span of a few short hours on February 26, 2013 — on two different sides of the continent and with two completely different outcomes.

In one event, an alleged medical professional stood idly by and watched a woman die at the Glenwood Gardens independent living facility in while a 911 communicator named Tracey Halvorson desperately tried to intervene through the phone line.

“Is there anybody that’s willing to help this lady and not let her die?” Halvorson pleaded. “Can we flag someone down in the street? Can we flag a stranger down? I bet a stranger would help her.”

The woman died.

In another event, Forest Park (Ga.), Master Patrol Officer Christopher Simmons was approached by woman whose adult son was unconscious, unresponsive, and slumped over the center console of a parked car. Simmons sprang to action, bringing the 41-year-old victim inside from a frigid downpour, performing CPR on him, and ultimately keeping the man alive until paramedics arrived.

“Had it not been for MPO Simmons training and quick response, the outcome of this situation could have been disastrous,” said Major Chris Matson as he described Simmons’ heroic actions.

The man lived.

CPR, AEDs, and SCA
Aside from the obvious contrasts, the fundamental similarity between the two events is cardiopulmonary resuscitation — CPR.

According to Benjamin Abella, a clinical research director for the Center for Resuscitation Science and the Department of Emergency Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, an estimated 98 percent of police officers are trained regularly in CPR.

That’s good news, because according to Abella, Police are typically among the first to arrive on the scene, so having CPR-enabled individuals on hand can help increase a victim’s survival when their heart suddenly stops beating.

The bad news is that while emergency medical teams treat about 300,000 people each year outside the hospital for cardiac arrest, less than eight percent of those survive, according to statistics from the American Heart Association.

CPR is an excellent, life-saving skill, but in the opinion folks like Abella, Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) also have a place in the police officer’s medical arsenal.

I happen to agree with that assessment.

Nearly four years ago, I wrote a short article about AEDs being deployed into the trunks of squad cars — how having those devices present was markedly showing success. 

A little more than two years ago, the Rochester (Minn.) police officers began carrying AEDs in their cars. As of today, they’ve saved 127 lives and achieved a 52 percent survival rate.

Answering the Call
Sudden cardiac arrest is one of the leading causes of death in the U.S., claiming an estimated 325,000 lives annually. That’s more than lives lost from breast cancer, prostrate cancer, AIDS, traffic accidents, firearms, and house fires combined. Furthermore, SCA can happen to anyone, anywhere, of any age, at any time.

I think we can all agree that because police officers are out patrolling our streets day and night, you’re frequently first on the scene of these medical emergencies.

For example, check out this video, and pick up the remainder of today’s tip below.

Getting Help in Giving Help
Nearly every cop has CPR training. I’m hopeful that in time, a similar proportion also has access to an AED — very close at hand — while out on patrol. 

Times are tough, cash is tight, and budgets are shrinking most everywhere. At about a thousand dollars per unit, AEDs are probably not at the very top of your agency’s list of acquisition priorities, and that’s completely understandable. 

Please be advised, however, that there are private parties — individuals, charitable foundations, and corporations — two whom you can turn for financial assistance. Further, there are various grant programs you can tap into. I encourage you to email my friends at PoliceGrantsHelp to, well, get help with police grants.

Send an email to expert@policegrantshelp.com for more information on grants for AEDs. In the meantime, be sure to keep current on your CPR skills, and always be ready to use them.

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