Magazine

Our Next Big Safety Decision

Hearts Abound in Parking

Jem Jones

When most people think of heart defibrillators, they think of a doctor in an emergency room yelling “Clear!” The devices seem complicated and dangerous, and the ones in the hospitals are. But the American Heart Association (AHA) and cardiologists around the country are pushing for the availability of automated external defibrillators (AEDs) in all public locations for use by people of all ages and skill levels.
They say defibrillation has the potential to be the single greatest advance in the treatment of out-of-hospital cardiac arrest since CPR. And the single most important element of this treatment demands the attention of the parking industry, as well a reassessment of parking safety and emergency response.
Cardiovascular disease is the No. 1 cause of death in the United States, and at least 250,000 Americans of all ages and degrees of fitness die of sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) before they reach a hospital. These cases are most often publicized after the sudden, unexpected deaths of high school and college athletes who collapse after or during a game. Cardiologists believe that more than half of these lives could have been saved if there were widespread availability of AEDs.
The devices work by delivering an electric shock to restart and resynchronize the electrical impulses in a heart that is beating too sporadically and/or too fast to effectively pump blood to the brain and body. If untreated, these conditions quickly leady to brain damage or death. Contrary to what people see on TV and in the movies, an AED cannot shock a victim who has “flat lined,” because there is no electrical activity left in the heart.
The medical facts on the effectiveness of defibrillators are overwhelming. Simply put, they save lives.
Although several factors play into the effectiveness of defibrillation, some basic characteristics of the parking environment immediately threaten the most important factor – response time.
According to the AHA, for every minute that a person in cardiac arrest goes without being defibrillated, the chance of survival decreases by 10%. Victims who receive the first AED shock within three minutes have a 74% chance of survival. There is only a 5% chance for those who do not receive prompt defibrillation.
In parking facilities, traffic is either coming or going. People don’t typically spend a substantial amount of time in these environments, and remote facilities often lack on-site response teams. Consequently, the lives of SCA victims in parking areas are often in the hands of whoever happens to be around. Having the right equipment visible and available to them is crucial to timing and a determinant in the victim’s chances of survival.
The argument for widespread use of defibrillators has been made possible by the development of a new wave of AEDs that are much easier to use and can be operated by almost anyone. Public-access AEDs are so easy to use that all states now include the “good faith” use of an AED by any person under “Good Samaritan” laws.
Many parking facilities are equipped with emergency/information phones that curb criminal activity and provide an essential link to assistance in cases of emergencies. The first step in assisting a cardiac victim is always to call for emergency medical services (EMS). Securing AEDs with emergency phones allows first-responders to notify emergency officials and retrieve an AED for defibrillation all in one quick motion.
An emergency phone system that actually houses an AED has been developed. The phone makes up half the unit; the other half secures the AED behind a steel door with a polycarbonate window. The “Emergency” button quickly connects first-responders with safety officials. When the AED door is opened, the strobe light on the unit automatically starts flashing, alerting everyone in the surrounding area of an emergency situation.
While placing an AED at every emergency phone location may not be practical or necessary for every parking facility, the AHA is urging safety and emergency-response officials of all public facilities to have at least one defibrillator on-site with one staffer trained in AED procedure and ready to respond at all times.
At the very least, having these devices available and visible to the public sends a positive message of well-being to people on behalf of facility officials and safety efforts across the field.

For more information, visit the AHA’s website at
www.americanheart.org. For additional information on securing public access AEDs in parking environments, visit www.talkaphone.com.

Jem Jones can be reached at jjones@talkaphone.com.

Article Abstract from March, 2007




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