Fire department gives a jolt to community safety
GLENWOOD SPRINGS – Clear! City Hall is the latest place to receive a compact medical device that could zap heart-attack victims back to life. The device, an automatic external defibrillator, will be available inside the building in case of a cardiac emergency. “We know the AED saves lives. And like General Electric says, ‘Better living through electricity,'” Glenwood Springs fire chief Mike Piper said. The City Hall AED is one of a few that have been strategically placed around the city as part of a city program. The Community Center was first, receiving a defibrillator in 2002. Since then, AEDs have been installed by the Glenwood Springs Fire Department at the top of the tram at Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park and at the Glenwood Springs Municipal Golf Course. “We received a large donation through a citizen’s will, so we believed the best thing to do was put it back into the community,” Piper said. “If we could save one life, wouldn’t it be worth it?”
Glenwood Springs Fire Department Lt. Chad Harris trained a small group of city employees who met at City Council Chambers Wednesday morning. “Patients’ best chance of survival is defibrillation within four minutes,” Harris said. “A shock can be delivered within one minute of it being turned on.”Anyone who has ever watched the TV drama “ER” has no doubt seen a defibrillator in action. In most dramatized situations on TV, it will show a doctor yelling, “Clear!” then administering a shock that practically jolts the patient out of his gurney. With this new technology, anyone off the street can now administer such a shock. The idea of providing public defibrillators started a few years ago in Chicago’s O’Hare Airport. Several AEDs were made available throughout the airport, allowing airport personnel or whoever else is around to attempt to get a heart attack victim’s ticker working again. Since then, as the unit’s price has dropped, its popularity has skyrocketed around the country. “This isn’t something that’s new, but it’s new to our community,” Harris said.
Contrary to popular belief, the electric current doesn’t “jump-start” a person’s heart. Rather, the shock sort of depolarizes the electric waves in a heart, resetting it to a flatline. The hope, then, is that the heart will recognize the flatline and restart itself. Administering such a shock can give a patient as much as an 85 percent chance of survival, statistics show. The machine is fully automatic, taking the guesswork out of what would no doubt be a tense situation, even for someone who has never operated such a machine. It has just three buttons and is easy to operate. The machine recognizes ventricular fibrillation and actually says – in audible words – when someone needs to be defibrillated.In a suspected cardiac arrest, the first action would be to call 911, Harris said. Cardiopulmonary resuscitation, or CPR, is the next step. If the patient doesn’t respond, the AED would then be hooked onto the patient via two sticky patches that go on the chest and side. The machine would then analyze the patient and gives both verbal and visual instructions on what to do next. If the AED determines the patient has a “shockable rhythm” – either ventricular fibrillation of ventricular tachycardia – it will charge up, emitting a louder version of the noise a camera flash makes while charging up, then allow the person treating the patient to press a button, delivering the shock that’s roughly equal to a quick jolt from a 110-volt electrical outlet.
“It doesn’t automatically shock, you have to press the button – which is really about the only thing you have to do,” Harris said. Around 75 percent of people who experience cardiac arrest fall into a shockable category, Harris said. After receiving her training, Glenwood Springs Municipal Court clerk Miki Piper (fire chief Mike Piper’s wife) said she’s glad the device will be available at City Hall. “It will help my abilities to help someone with their needs,” she said. “It’s a wonderful tool.”Contact Greg Massé: 945-8515, ext. firstname.lastname@example.org
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