The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, October 14, 2005


Automated external defibrillators placed in town buildings

A number of defibrillators which were obtained by the town through grant monies a year ago last August are now available to the public at several town locations:

Police station

The police station has a defibrillator on the wall in the waiting room. All police cruisers have defibrillators and Acting Chief John Sullivan wishes there were another unit for the unmarked cruiser. Training has been done by staff members.

Town Hall

One unit has been placed in the Clark room at the Town Hall. The four people trained to operate it are Linda Fantasia, Jan D'Onofrio, Irene Blake, and Madonna McKenzie They were trained in a three-hour evening session the first week in October. According to one of the trainees, another session would be useful, but this is not easy when the fire department's trainer has a full-time day job.


Two units are scheduled for the school. One is presently in place at the nurse's office, where both the nurse and her assistant are qualified operators. Fire Chief Dave Flannery would like two more units at the school, one in the Corey Building and one in the main office area, but the advisory group for the defibrillator has not yet decided where the second unit will be placed. The advisory task force for the defibrillator includes Kathy Horan, the school nurse; Burt Rubenstein, representing the fire department; and Flannery.

Fire Department

The fire department has two units at the station. In a medical emergency that goes through the usual emergency channels, the ambulance has one and the other is in the Advanced Life Support (ALS) vehicle.

Public access to defibrillators a new program

The American Heart association ranks sudden cardiac death, with 225,000 deaths a year, as the fifth largest cause of death in this country. Specialists state that the Automated External Defibrillator (AED) is the single greatest advance in treatment of ventricular fibrillation (VF). In the past AED use has been confined to medical specialists, EMTs, emergency room personnel, and medical staff. Training non-medical personnel to operate the machine in a public-acessed location is a new and important event in emergency treatment. The purchase of the AED is not controlled, and it can be sold at a drug store.

How defibrillators save lives

Persons with no previous cardiac or vascular problem can develop VF or an abnormal heart rhythm without warning. This irregular rhythm can impede the flow of blood to the brain and, if not corrected, cause breathing and pulse to stop. Electrical energy in the heart becomes chaotic. A normal heart beat can often be restored by an electric shock from a defibrillator. The statistics are stunning: 90% of victims who are treated within two minutes of collapse survive. The rate of survival decreases in direct proportion to the elapsed time between the cardiac arrest and the first defibrillator shock. In New York City the response time for an emergency call is 12 minutes and only 5% of VF victims or 1to 2% of cardiac arrest cases, survive. In Seattle, with an average response time of seven minutes, the survival rate is 30%; in Rochester, MI, the response time is six minutes and there is a 45% survival rate. Flannery proudly proclaims a Carlisle statistic, "We've had five saves!"

Linda Fantasia, one of the four persons at the town hall trained to use the defibrillator, says "It's so easy." But the "so easy factor" presents a downside of public access liability. Directions are on the machine, and the machine is in a public place, so any person has access to the unit. If the unit is not properly maintained and the battery is dead, is the town liable? Training is also a key factor. Flannery says, "The most important thing is that first responders have basic life-saving skills in order to be successful." He states that for the defibrillator to be effective the victim has to have oxygenation and circulation, and that Carlisle's units are programmed not to shock if these conditions do not exist.

2005 The Carlisle Mosquito