AEDs are life saving, but could be more common locally

Published 7:00 am Saturday, March 10, 2018

Recently, officials have expressed concern over the limited number of Automated External Defibrillator devices accessible to firefighters and law enforcement officers across Pearl River County.

Sudden cardiac arrest is one of the leading causes of death in the United States. Approximately 350,000 people die of cardiac arrest every year. According to an article by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, unlike heart attacks, cardiac arrest is caused by a malfunction in the heart’s internal electrical system. When this system is disrupted or stopped, an electrical shock by an AED device is one of the only ways to restore the heart’s natural rhythm.

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“95 percent of people who have sudden cardiac arrest die from it – most within minutes,” the article states.

An article by the American Heart Association adds, “The victim’s chance of surviving drops by seven to 10 percent for every minute a normal heartbeat isn’t restored.”

The sooner an AED pulse can be administered to a person suffering from cardiac arrest, the higher their chance of survival. Unfortunately, many first-response vehicles in Pearl River County are under-equipped to deal with cardiac arrests.

Carriere Volunteer Fire Department Chief Chris Banks said that his department only has one AED machine, which is located in the main fire engine. Even though the department has a first-response vehicle, it is not equipped with an AED.

Since the number of ambulances across Pearl River County is limited, Banks said they often take 10 minutes or more to arrive on scene.

Banks said the department’s lack of AEDs is a concern. He said they often find themselves responding to calls where an AED is needed, but do not have one available. Banks said  ideally he would like an AED in every vehicle, but right now, they are on the department’s “wish list.”

At the Poplarville Fire Department, the situation is a bit different. Fire Chief Jonathan Head said that while the department only has one AED in the main engine, most of the areas they respond to, such as school campuses and city offices, have their own devices. When responding to an accident or medical emergency, Head said that the AED on the main engine is usually all they need.

However, Head said he would like to have a backup to ensure one is always available.

Picayune Fire Chief Keith Brown said his department is well equipped. There is currently one AED in each of the department’s four response vehicles and there are two back-up units.

Even though law enforcement officers often arrive on scene before fire department or medical first-responders do, they are less equipped than fire departments.

The Pearl River County Sheriff’s Department currently only has one AED device located within the headquarters in Millard. However, Sheriff Department Captain Joe Quave said that all of his officers are proficient in a variety of first-aid training. Still, he said that it would be ideal for deputies to have AEDs to add an extra element of safety.

Poplarville Police Chief Butch Raby said that his department does not have any AED devices. However, he said it is not a major concern since the local fire department has a quick medical response time.

At the Picayune Police Department, Chief Bryan Dawsey said his department currently has two AED devices – one in the office and jail, and one that is taken with each shift supervisor on patrol. While every officer is trained in CPR, Dawsey said that he would like to have four or five more AEDs for every patrol officer on shift.

Unfortunately, due to the high cost of AEDs, they are out of the department’s budget. Dawsey said he hopes funds can be raised in the future to provide the department with more of the life-saving devices.

AAA Ambulance currently provides EMS services to Pearl River County. AAA Chief of Operations Chuck Carter said while EMS personnel do not use AEDs, the county’s four 24-hour vehicles and one 12-hour vehicle are all equipped with advanced life-support systems.

The American Heart Association recommends, “All first-response vehicles, including ambulances, law-enforcement vehicles and many fire engines should have an AED.”