AEDs accessible to the public are becoming more widespread by the day. Not only are there ongoing legislative mandates that require AEDs, but many organizations are voluntarily providing AEDs on their premises. The general public has basic knowledge of what an AED is, what is can do, and how it can save lives. But, more education is required so that anyone, trained or not, who finds themselves as a bystander to a medical crisis like sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) is comfortable to step up to start providing emergency care to the victim.
SCA takes the lives of over 400,000 people annually in the United States alone. The American Heart Association reports that some 40,000 lives could be saved annually if more SCA victims received CPR and AED care within the 5 minute “Chain of Survival” window.
The American Heart Association has defined the Chain of Survival in sudden cardiac arrest to these four steps:
– Early access to emergency care by calling 9-1-1
– Early CPR should be started and maintained until emergency medical services arrive
– Early Defibrillation is the only one that can re-start the heart function of a person with ventricular fibrillation (VF).
– Early Advanced Care, the final link, can then be administered as needed by EMS personnel.
State Senator Jim Tracy of Shelbyville, TN has put forth a proposal requiring hands-on CPR practice in high school programs in the state of Tennessee, and the vote was unanimous in favor. The companion bill will be heard by the House Education Committee shortly.
High Schools are a great place for this education to start. All high schools have physical education classes, as well as general Wellness classes. More and more schools are adding CPR and AED training to the required curriculum for their students. This training is going beyond the “theory of CPR” training and taking it to the next, more valuable level of ‘hands on CPR and AED” training. The American Heart Association has simplified CPR to focus on compressions (depth and timing) and eliminated mouth to mouth resuscitation as a necessary component to CPR. Studies have shown than the fear of not being trained, and the fear of not understanding the mouth to mouth step in CPR caused many people to resist stepping in. Even a few seconds delay can mean the difference between life and death. The new CPR guidelines have simplified CPR to a degree that anyone can and should step forward to provide care. Not stepping forward is no longer an excuse. This will enable and allow non-medical people to make a positive difference for sudden cardiac arrest victims.
This training will bring countless new first responders into the public arena on an ongoing basis. One of these trained responders may be in the position of providing emergency care to a family member, friend, coworker, etc. The potential this training curve will bring to the general public is staggering. It is not difficult to realize that every few years there could be a million new TRAINED first responders that will be able to provide life saving care in the event that they are a bystander of a sudden cardiac arrest.
The next hurdle is to educate the population on the importance of having an AED on the premises. A SCA victim not only needs CPR but they must have an AED to deliver the shock that re-sets the victim’s heart rhythm, and literally saves their life. The fact is that if EMS is the only option for providing the AED, the number of lost lives cannot and will not improve to the degree that is possible. AEDs need to be on the premises and accessible within 2 minutes.
Start the conversation with your church, school, place of business, kids’ sports teams, etc. to learn what the AED on premises situation is. If there is not one, be the person that sets a meeting to discuss the value that this one action would bring to the organization. It only takes a few minutes to do a little research and be able to make the case for providing and AED. Once an AED is acquired, it must be accessible at all times, and staff should know where it is in the event of a sudden cardiac arrest.