(ABOVE) The Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office recently received a $13,000 grant from the Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation. Deputies Colby Reik, left, Michael Mullins, center, and Sheriff Curt Folger, pose with a couple of the recently-purchased units. (Photo by Jim Robertson)
He wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for the AED,” Murray Police Department Maj. Chris Scott said, referring to a Calloway County Sheriff’s Office dispatcher and longtime friend, who experienced a heart attack more than a decade ago.
“Several years ago (the dispatcher) collapsed in a convenience store, and one of our officers deployed the AED and saved his life,” Scott said.
The Murray Police Department has been carrying automated external defibrillators for about 15 years, and is part of the growing trend of law enforcement agencies carrying the life-saving device.
Thanks to grant funding, several agencies nationwide have found a means to purchase AEDs.
Such is the case for a small-town Kentucky sheriff’s office that got a big boost from nine AEDs recently purchased, thanks to a $13,000 grant from the Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation.
Lincoln County Sheriff Curt Folger said the purchase was made because, more often than not, deputies are the first to arrive on scene of a cardiac event.
“We cover 484 miles of roads. If you were to lay it out end-to-end, it would be like going from here to Florida,” Folger said. “There’s a lot of times that it will take EMS 30 minutes to get to you if they are on one end of the county, and you’re on the other. Time is a huge factor when it comes to someone having a heart attack.”
While there is no statistical information indicating the number of Kentucky law enforcement agencies that utilize AEDs, the Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation has awarded grants to purchase the life-saving piece of equipment to more than a dozen departments statewide. Additionally, an informal poll posted to the Department of Criminal Justice Training’s Facebook page revealed nearly 30 agencies in the state use AEDs.
Lincoln County deputies Michael Mullins and Colby Reik spearheaded the agency’s efforts to obtain grant funding to purchase nine AEDs.
Mullins said AEDs are a must have in Lincoln County.
“We go on any unresponsive call, cardiac arrest, overdose – you never know the full story, so that is why we’re dispatched to it, and we usually get there first,” Mullins said. “It’s a great need due to our EMS situation. There are three different ambulance services in the county right now. They’re trying to consolidate into one service. At times, there’s not an ambulance available because it is at a hospital in another county, and they’re short staffed.”
There are far more deputies in different parts of the county at any given time than there are ambulances, Reik added.
“Dispatch won’t technically call us out on (cardiac events),” said Reik, who is also an EMT with the Lexington Fire Department. “They will make us aware when they dispatch EMS to a code. We need to be aware of it because there are always deputies out in the county, and if we all have AEDs, someone is bound to be close and can get there before EMS.”
The AEDs make it easy for law enforcement personnel to perform the life-saving procedure, Mullins said.
“It’s cop-proof,” Mullins joked. “It walks you through it. You apply the pad, and it will tell you to check the pulse while it’s reading the rhythm, and to stand clear, because while it is analyzing (the victim), it doesn’t want to read your heart.”
AEDs only will shock certain rhythms the heart may be in, such as ventricle fibrillation – when the heart quivers – and the other is supraventricular tachycardia – when the heart is beating too fast. Additionally, it will only shock when there is no pulse present.
If a shock is advised, Mullins said the officer simply pushes a button and stands back while the machine does the work.
“The pads are designed so that when you take them out of the package, you lay it on the chest,” Mullins said. “If you’re not doing enough CPR, it will tell you to speed it up.”
The Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office purchased ZOLL AED Plus machines. Mullins said the reason was simple.
“It is what our local EMS and fire departments use,” Mullins said. “It makes it compatible and we can switch out pads.”
Law enforcement personnel receive initial CPR and first-aid training at the Department of Criminal Justice Training, Murray’s Scott said. Once officers return to their departments, their employing agency ensures officers maintain their certification.
“We’ve had several officers who have received the lifesaver award for using AEDs to resuscitate people,” Scott said.
Officers need to be CPR- and AED-certified, Mullins said. Once an officer is AED-certified, he or she must undergo recertification every two years, Mullins said.
Lincoln County has a medical advisor who is an emergency room doctor at hospitals in Danville and Stanford.
“The sheriff’s office has to have a medical advisor, because the AED is considered a pharmaceutical device, and you have to have a prescription for it,” Mullins said. “The sheriff’s office uses the advisor’s license number.”
Agencies who use AEDs are protected under the state’s Good Samaritan law, DOCJT Staff Attorney Shawn Herron said.
“Basically, KRS 311.668 provides for any person or entity who uses an AED in good faith and without compensation, shall be immune from civil liability, unless there is true gross negligence or misconduct in the use,” Herron said. “It is also expected under the Good Samaritan law, codified as KRS 411.148, that anyone who provides medical type care should act within the scope of their training.”
Herron stressed that proper training is the key.
“I emphasize, however, the protections require that the person be acting within the scope of their training … ergo … officers should be trained in AED use,” she said.
Herron added that under state law, agencies that have AED are required to inform local EMS officials and dispatch centers regarding the location and type of device they are using.
The cost of AEDs isn’t cheap, especially for smaller agencies.
The ZOLL machine costs between $1,000 and $1,200 each, Mullins said. The Firehouse grant covered the cost of the machines for Lincoln County.
Other cost factors are the one-time use pads. Adult pads cost an average of $60 each and have a shelf life of two years. Pediatric pads cost about $80 each, Mullins said.
“That’s the biggest expense with the AEDs,” Mullins said.
Sheriff Folger said that even if the machine saves just one life, it is well worth the cost.
“If we can save a life and get someone stable enough to be transported, it’s just an added benefit to our residents,” the sheriff said. “I hope we never have to use them. However, with us having them, it gives the patient a greater chance of survival.”
The Life-Saving Importance of AEDs
Here are some reasons why law enforcement agencies are investing in AEDs:
- Defibrillation within three minutes of sudden cardiac arrest increases the chances of survival to 70 percent. Shock within one minute of collapse raises the survival rate to 90 percent.
- Calling 911 is necessary, but the wait for first responders may take too long. The average call-to-shock time in a typical community is nine minutes.
- CPR alone saves just 9 percent of sudden-cardiac-arrest victims.
- Although AEDs may be accessible to the community, bystanders may be reluctant or unaware of how to use them. Law enforcement officers are typically better equipped to provide emergency medical treatment than the public.
Sources: cardiacscience.com and americanaed.com