The police department received a priceless gift, courtesy of East Pierce Fire and Rescue. Each patrol car has been equipped with automated external defibrillators, AEDs, with the intent that officers will utilize them in emergency cases of cardiac arrest.
“Since patrol officers are out patrolling the neighborhoods, they often arrive on scene before we are,” East Pierce Battalion Chief Jeff Moore said. “The theory is to get the AED to the patient as quickly as possible. Equipping police officers with an AED saves minutes when minutes are critical.”
Patients in cardiac arrest require a shock, or defibrillation, in order for the heart to resume beating on its own. CPR oxygenates the blood until the heart restarts, but it doesn’t typically do so without the use of an AED device.
“Survival decreases by 10 percent for every minute the heart goes without oxygen. CPR buys time for the patient to be shocked, but it’s the shock that saves a life,”Moore said.
Officers are now able to utilize AEDs immediately, as opposed to waiting for East Pierce to respond at the scene.
“As an officer on scene, you want to do all you can. It seems like forever when you’re waiting for help to arrive. CPR doesn’t bring people back by itself and when we roll through the door, that’s already been going on anyway. It is a hopeless feeling,” Officer Todd Green said. “Almost every officer I know has been on these types of calls and now we’re equipped to use life-saving techniques right away.”
East Pierce will inspect the machines regularly and provide annual training courses for the officers. They will also debrief officers and provide case reviews when an AED is used, to analyze what was done correctly and what could be improved upon.
Each machine weighs less than five pounds and includes instructions, diagrams and voice prompts. They are very easy to use and won’t deliver a shock unless the heart has stopped, said Police Chief Dana Powers.
AEDs have now been issued to all officers in Bonney Lake, Sumner, Edgewood and Milton, as well as each school served by East Pierce. Pierce County Sheriff’s deputies will also be given 10 devices for vehicles in the area. Funding was provided by a King County Medic One Foundation grant of $20,000.
Businesses or other individuals who purchase an AED are required by the Washington State Administrative Code to notify the fire department, according to East Pierce. Doing so ensures routine inspections will be conducted and 911 dispatchers will be notified of the AEDs location, in case a nearby emergency warrants its use.
“Up to 50 percent of the time, when an AED is available, it is not used,” Moore said. “In the heat of the moment, people forget or they simply never knew it was there. Worse yet, if the device was not maintained, it may not work when it’s needed.”
Device training is also included for citizens who take CPR classes offered by East Pierce.
AEDs scattered through the community will dramatically impact cardiac arrest patients when combined with CPR, Moore said, and now the Bonney Lake Police Department is more fully equipped to help save those lives.