For Aristas Fire, acquiring an AED is a very personal matter to the members.
During a fundraising breakfast in 2003, “One of our members collapsed,” said Capt. Greg Yeager. Members initiated care but were on their own without an AED until an official EMS response arrived about 15 minutes later.
“He ended up succumbing to his condition,” Yeager said, and that scenario could happen again to a resident or responder because in their small community, 65-70 percent of the residents are over 60. “Our membership pool comes from that population,” he said, so chances are increased that another member could suffer a cardiac event with the stress of responding or fundraising.
After that loss, the department initiated an AED program under the member’s name. They collected money, got a grant and bought their first AED, but it now needs replacement so this will be their second but only AED.
“We’re very excited about it. It’s going to be a key component in efforts to provide additional service to the community,” Yeager said.
The community’s need has only grown, he noted, because the closest ambulance service they had closed down two years ago. He said Aristas Fire doesn’t officially provide medical assistance, but their EMT and paramedic members go out if they hear a medical call, and provide care until ALS or BLS arrives from about eight miles away.
Their next goals include acquiring the necessary equipment and licensing to get dispatched as the local EMS first response agency, and to offer free CPR and AED training to the community.
“We want to thank Firehouse, Firehouse.com and Cardiac Science for offering this [AED] – we know it’s not a small expense,” Yeager said. “You could never put a price tag on what it can do.”
Assistant Fire Chief Fred Lawson and Medical Director Darrell Nelson explained that they serve a system that’s rural, but is working to become progressive in the area of cardiac care.
“It’s a program that we started in January 2011 after the AHA update on cardio vascular care,” Nelson said. Efforts have included changing their approach on CPR to assign specific roles to each responder as they arrive and the team builds; doing all resuscitation on scene to concentrate on good, uninterrupted CPR; providing impedance threshold devices directly to responders so they don’t have to wait for ALS; and introducing therapeutic hypothermia.
“Usually those are things done by bigger agencies with more resources,” Nelson noted.
Their previous cardiac arrest survival rate before the program was 8 percent, and it has now reached 42 percent using the Utstein rate, and 30 percent overall, Nelson said. Their transport times are 30-60 minutes.
“We’re ecstatic,” he said.
The community also has a public access program in place, with AEDs placed at churches, schools, etc., but Nelson said they are studying whether this is the best way to deploy AEDs in a rural community.
They recently implemented a strategy to put 15 AEDs in the hands of volunteer first responders so they can respond directly to cardiac calls, and don’t have to go pick up an AED first. (The 15 are on loan for a year, and the department will see if it can arrange to purchase them afterward, Lawson explained.)
The new AED won through the Cardiac Science contest will go in service with a first responder.
“We believe the best place in a rural community is to put them in the hands of first responders,” Nelson said. Their study will last a total of 12 months, and they aim to then publish an analysis in a peer-reviewed journal.
Of the Cardiac Science Giveaway contest, Nelson added, “It’s great that Firehouse did that and it will add to the coverage of AEDs in our community.”
Rockville Centre Auxiliary Police, N.Y.