AEDs: Powerful, Portable Life Savers in Your Community

Man holding chest from pain

Automated external defibrillators can save lives. In fact, use of an automated external defibrillator, or AED, can increase the chance of surviving by 70 percent. Over the last year, two separate Northern Colorado news articles – this one and this one – paint a picture of how important AEDs can be to a community. Consider these statistics from the American Heart Association:

  • More than 350,000 people suffered sudden cardiac arrest also called SCA
  • An individual dies from SCA every 1.6 minutes
  • Only 46.1 percent had a bystander perform CPR, and the survivor rate was only 12 percent

That’s why Banner Health’s facilities in Northern Colorado are working with their communities to make sure they are readily available.

What is an automated external defibrillator?

I spoke with Dave Bressler, the director and chief paramedic at North Colorado Medical Center’s Paramedic Services about AEDs. Weighing just under 7 pounds, the AEDs found throughout Northern Colorado provide real-time feedback to the individual rendering assistance with the AED.

As soon as you turn it some models, the AED speaks with a calm, soothing voice, telling the person the step-by-step protocol to use the device. Once the person places the pads on the victim, the AED begins to analyze the heart rhythm and can either instruct the user to shock or tells the user to begin CPR. With CPR, a built-in metronome keeps the tempo for compressions.

“The AED will provide real time feedback to the person and let them know how effectively they are doing CPR,” said Bressler. “If you’re not pushing hard enough, too slow or too fast, the AED provides you instruction throughout the event.”

Do you need training?

Bressler noted, while initial and ongoing training is recommended, an AED is not difficult to use. Taking a class in CPR can help to alleviate the fear of the unknown. It also teaches how important CPR is to the person suffering SCA. This can also help give you the confidence with what to do when it is needed.

“The one time you might have to use the training not only changes your life, but it changes a lot of lives, Bressler said.

“Remember, you may be the only hope for the person who collapsed from sudden cardiac arrest.”

Knowing CPR and when to call 911 are critical for the individual’s survival. Banner Health offers CPR and AED training at many of their facilities, and local fire departments often offer similar classes.

Where can you find them?

City of Greeley, Greeley Fire Department, the NCMC Foundation, Banner NCMC Cardio Vascular Institute and the Banner NCMC Paramedic Services partnered together to become a Heart Safe City. Heart Safe Communities, an American Heart Association recognized program, aims to increase awareness of sudden cardiac arrest.

Bressler explained that part of the Heart Safe Program includes placing AEDs in public locations, such as schools, recreation centers, swimming pools, private industry and city and county buildings. In Weld County, Colorado, there are 432 AEDs deployed by first response agencies and in public access locations.

“With the NCMC Heart Safe Program, there is the effort to limit the downstream cost when utilizing the AEDs that come through donations,” Bressler said, “Our database allows us to track each AED and the pads and batteries so we can replace them when necessary.”

The NCMC Heart Safe Program relies on donations to sustain this effort.

Community members in Weld County have donated many of the AEDs currently in the community. In some cases, people have donated AEDs as a memorial to someone lost to SCA. In others, people saved by AEDs have donated a device as a way to pay it forward.

Weld County residents interested in donating or wanting more information on the Heart Safe Initiative can contact the NCMC Foundation. For other areas, please contact your nearest Banner Health hospital foundation.

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