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Community First installs life-saving devices

Employee suggestion leads to 20 AEDs in branches

January 22, 2013

There is a good reason that Mark Evers, CFCU maintenance specialist, carries a small black case in his truck wherever he goes.

It’s a lifesaver in cardiac emergencies.

On six occasions, Evers, a volunteer firefighter/First Responder with the Greenville Fire Department, has used the automated external defibrillator to save someone’s life. He has revived one elderly Greenville man twice using the AED.

“I can see from personal experience that it can be a life-saving device,” said Evers.

He brought the idea to Community First managers who made the decision to purchase 20 Phillips’ AEDs being installed at the main Appleton office and 18 full-service branch locations. (AEDs are already available at the FVTC branch).

This follows a trend of increased public access to defibrillation throughout the U.S. since ambulances are not always nearby and minutes are crucial in cardiac emergencies.

“The AED itself talks to you and tells you what to do,” Evers said. “All you have to do is listen to it and do what it says. It gives that individual a lot better (survival) chance.”

For more than two decades, Evers has been a volunteer firefighter/First Responder with the Greenville Fire Department, responding around the clock to emergency medical and fire calls to help his neighbors.

“Time is always of the essence,” Evers said of cardiac emergencies. “As long as the person isn’t breathing or have a pulse you’re not going to hurt him (or her). You’re going to give them another chance at life.”

Jeff Schweitzer, CFCU senior vice president of facilities/purchasing, who is also a trained First Responder, said CFCU staff assisted in choosing the Phillips Heartstart defibrillator after testing several models. “Training is not required to operate a unit,” he said. “We selected the unit that was easiest to use.”

In November, he was one of about 30 Community First employees who participated in a First Responder training session that included AED use as well as CPR, First Aid and bloodborne pathogens.

When it comes to a cardiac event such as a heart attack, Schweitzer said, “Access is very important as the faster the (AED) deployment and use, the better the chance for survival.”

When the door of the AED cabinet is opened, an alarm sounds that signals a medical emergency so others can respond to assist and make sure someone calls 911 immediately.

“I applaud Mark Evers for bringing the idea forward,” Schweitzer said. “He was persistent in asking to get this in place and he gave us valuable feedback throughout the process.”

Steve Radich, administrative director, Gold Cross Ambulance Service, said emergency medical professionals would like to see “AEDs being as common as fire extinguishers.

“The American Heart Association talks about three minutes drop to shock,” Radich said. “That’s why we look at AEDs being as common as fire extinguishers. That 3-minute window is really what your target should be. With every minute that passes without defibrillation, the success rate decreases by 10 percent.”

An AED works best in concert with CPR (cardio-pulmonary resuscitation).

“You pull it off the wall, apply the patches and turn it on while you’re doing CPR at the same time,” Radich said.

With convenient access to an AED device, CFCU employees can take potentially life-saving actions for fellow employees or other member/owners.

“It’s a wonderful feeling to be able to save a life,” Radich said. “It’s like no other feeling in the world. As a paramedic, I’ve done it more than once. It’s amazing. You’re just elated.”

When someone is stricken by a sudden heart attack, the typical survival rate is slim, less than 10%. However, if an AED is used within 3 – 5 minutes of the onset, a victim’s survival rate increases to 85%.

Radich said public access AEDs contributed to “two saves” during the first 10 days of January, one at Outagamie County Regional Airport and another at a local high school.

A cardiac victim will be unconscious, unresponsive when shaken and not breathing normally. By following the simple verbal and visual instructions and attaching the pads as prompted, you cannot cause the victim any further harm. Once attached, the pads will help the machine determine if the victim needs to be shocked by reading and sending important information to the AED. Since the machine determines if shocks are necessary, using the AED is recommended even if you are uncertain as to whether a person has suffered a cardiac event.

“They’re simple to use,” said Brian Lawson, external education coordinator for Gold Cross, which provided AED training to CFCU staff members. That training included CPR, which is not required but recommended to use with the devices for improved survival rates.

Gold Cross officials say some are promoting compression-only to help overcome some public fears about mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. To address that concern, Gold Cross also attached a small red bag to each AED that includes disposable CPR barriers to be placed over a victim’s mouth.

Lawson said mouth-to-mouth rescue breathing is not required but it is particularly important to survival in cases of apparent drowning, drug overdose and carbon monoxide poisoning.

“If a person is comfortable giving breaths (mouth-to-mouth) with compression, then give breaths with compressions,” Lawson said. “If you’re not comfortable doing breaths, do compression-only CPR.”

What to do in a cardiac emergency?

  • Immediately call 911 to get an ambulance rolling with advanced life support care.
  • Locate AED cabinet and bring the portable device to the victim.
  • Initiate CPR* if possible and follow the audible AED instructions.
  • Administer the AED shock if indicated by the device.

    *Gold Cross Ambulance officials say using CPR (chest compressions and rescue breathing) is not required but gives a victim the greatest chance of survival. Chest-only CPR compressions provide improved chances of success as well.