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Heart shock devices to be in Pa. police cars

August 30, 2000

Heart shock devices to be in Pa. police cars



By DON AINES / Staff Writer, Chambersburg

photo: DON AINES

New defribulatorsCHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Five police departments in Franklin County will be carrying a new piece of equipment in the trunks of their cruisers, one meant to save the lives of those threatened not by criminals, but by cardiac arrest.

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The Franklin-Fulton Division of the American Heart Association handed out 15 automated external defibrillators Wednesday at Chambersburg Hospital.

The devices went to police in Chambersburg, Waynesboro and Washington Township and police at Shippensburg University and the Penn State Mont Alto Campus.

Part of the association's Operation Heartbeat Program, the devices will help strengthen what it calls "the weakest link in the chain of survival," the need for early defibrillation after a heart attack.

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The machines and training were paid for with a $52,859 grant from the Summit Endowment. The endowment is part of the Summit Health system, which includes Chambersburg and Waynesboro hospitals.

"That covers the cost of the units and training for all of the police officers, approximately 100, that will be trained in the use of this," said John McAndrew an American Heart Association spokesman. "The whole idea is to have them as needed in the patrol cars," he said.

The Chambersburg Police Department received six of the defibrillators, which are about the size of a briefcase. That's enough for each cruiser that's on patrol during a regular shift.

"Being in a rural area with volunteer companies, both fire and ambulance, we're often the first on the scene" of an emergency, said Washington Township Police Chief Barry Keller. His department received three of the devices and all 12 full-time and two part-time officers will be trained in their use.

"There have been times in the past when we probably could have used them," Keller said.

Keller said when an emergency is called in "medical personnel may be closer to the scene and respond from home and the equipment is there" when they arrive at the scene.

Teresa O'Neal, a community education specialist at Chambersburg Hospital, said the police officers will each receive about 3 1/2 hours of training on the equipment at their departments during September and October.

"Time is of the essence when it comes to cardiac arrest," O'Neal said. When a police officer equipped with the defibrillator arrives where someone is having a heart attack, he or she can use it to restart a stopped heart, or re-establish a regular heartbeat.

She said users do not have to be medical professionals because "... it prompts you. It talks to you. It tells you step-by-step what to do."

The defibrillators do indeed speak, as O'Neal showed with a training model used on a mannequin named "Annie." "Connect electrodes," an electronic voice said.

Other verbal instructions included "Push analyze," "Stand clear" and "Push to shock."

"One of the usual concerns is 'Can I hurt someone with this?'" O'Neal said. Because the machines monitor heart function, O'Neal said they can tell the user "No shock advised," or "Continue CPR."

Dr. Michael Connor, an emergency room physician at Chambersburg Hospital, said the worth of the devices was demonstrated earlier this summer at Senior Days, an event for senior citizens at Shippensburg University. Ambulances with defibrillators were on hand when two participants had heart problems.

"They were successfully defibrillated at the scene" before being brought to the emergency room, he said. Their heart rhythms quickly stabilized, they suffered no collateral health problems, such as brain damage.

"That's one of the biggest problems," he said.

The machines, portable versions of the devices familiar to television viewers of "ER" and other medical shows, have two electrodes that attach to the chest wall with adhesive pads. A number of airlines have begun carrying defibrillators on flights and they are becoming more common at shopping malls and other places of business, according to Division Director Sharon Strike.

"We want them to be as common as fire extinguishers," she said. According to the association there are 250,000 instances of cardiac arrest each year, but the survival rate is just 5 percent. With enough defibrillators that could be raised to 20 percent, according to the association.

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