Archived Sections, Lutherans in the Twin Cities

Defibrillators in church?

Two years ago I approached my pastor and advised him that it was safer to be in a casino or airport on Sunday morning then attending liturgy at church. I explained that casinos and airports have automated external defibrillators (AEDs) available, while our church did not. I went on to further explain that I wanted to donate an AED to the parish, set up an AED program, and provide CPR and AED training for a group of parishioners.
After careful consideration, the development of policies and procedures, a donation of the equipment, and four hours of training, my congregation became a Heart-Safe Church.
At the Chicago airports, over a two-year period, eleven cardiac arrest patients were successfully defibrillated. This includes eight who became conscious prior to being admitted to the hospital. Ten of the eleven patients were still alive one year later and were neurologically intact. The long term survival rate was 56%. Of those who were defibrillated within five minutes, 67% survived.
Typically, only 5% of sudden cardiac arrest victims survive. However, if victims are defibrillated within three minutes of cardiac arrest, the survival rate can increase to 74%. Furthermore, the American Heart Association advises that for every min-ute defibrillation of a victim is delayed, the victim loses 7- 10% of his or her chance to survive.
With these statistics in mind, ask yourself: how long does it take for an ambulance service to arrive on the scene at your church? If the police or other agency arrives prior to the ambulance, do they have a defibrillator? Can they consistently arrive in less then four minutes from the time help is needed? Keep in mind: it might take a few minutes for someone to make a phone call since a church building is not a “phone friendly” environment during worship. Four minutes can quickly become six minutes. So, what can be done in the time you are waiting for help to arrive?
The answer is: start CPR and wait — for a defibrillator to arrive. According to the American Heart Association’s figures, up to 60% of such a victim’s chance to survive slips away while waiting for an AED.
So, why not have a Heart-Safe Church and de-velop an AED program? At other locations where defibrillators and trained personnel were available within four minutes of a cardiac arrest, the survival rate has skyrocketed from a dismal 5% to somewhere between 20-50%. Survival rates are documented even higher for well developed and implemented programs.
The main elements of a successful AED program include:
* Training. There should be at least a core group of formally trained individuals. Training can be provided in as little as 3-4 hours.
* Physician Oversight. The sign of a good AED program is physician involvement. Many states require it.
* Equipment. Select an AED that works best for your church. Be sure to get a storage cabinet and all necessary accessories included in the price of your AED.
* Be Part of the EMS System. Have a plan that includes notifying the local emergency dispatch center and ambulance service that you have an AED and be sure that 911 is called as soon as possible whenever the AED is used.
On numerous occasions I have heard that a church has not developed an AED program because either their attorney or insurance agent has concerns about liability. But if your attorney or insurance agent is so apathetic to the benefits of AEDs, despite the overwhelming medical evidence supporting the benefits of early defibrillation and the lack of legal settlements against AED programs, I’d suggest finding a new attorney or insurance company.
Not only is having an AED program the right thing to do; it is the legally prudent thing to do.
What about funding? If you budgeted for this expense you will be pleasantly surprised to find out that AED prices have dropped considerably over the past two years. Presently $1,500 is a fair price for a single machine, and companies typically offer discounted prices for volume purchases.
Or, consider receiving donations from members.
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Muench is a member of Saint Nicholas Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in Great Meadows New Jersey. He may be reached at 908/ 979-1915 or by email at rod muench@yahoo.com.