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Lifesaving Defibrillators Making
Emmitsburg Area Heart Safe

(11/15/2004) Vigilant Hose Company fire and medical personnel are beaming with pride these days having just accomplished a more than 2-year project securing Automated External Defibrillators (AED's) for the community. Known as "Public Access AED's," VHC has been hard at work to increase community survival rates from Sudden Cardiac Arrests, which can happen anytime, anywhere, to anyone.

"Just this past week, the VHC received another grant from the Maryland Institute for Emergency Medical Services Systems (MIEMSS) that reimbursed the fire department for its purchase, installation and localized training of numerous civilians on the effective use of these critical life-saving units," said Fire Chief Robert Rosensteel, Jr., himself a former long-time paramedic.

"Additionally, this 4th grant brings our total support from the state's EMS agency via separate AED programs to some $30,000.00," said Rosensteel. One of the programs is known as the Rural Access AED Program aimed at areas like that served by Vigilant personnel.

The overall project began under the leadership of the immediate past chief, Frank Davis, who continues to be instrumental in the project. Leading the effort for Vigilant has been a team comprised of Ann Messner, Karyn Myers and past chief Davis. VHC President Frank Rauschenberg reported that, "the committee has done a superb job and given that for the past 10 years the VHC has been increasingly involved in emergency medical services delivery, this was a logical next step."

Vigilant has been associated with several saves of those who had experienced heart attacks in the area and fire personnel have praised AED's each time. "We've carried an AED on Brush 66, our medical response unit, for some time now. But, it was former MIEMSS Region 2 Administrator Dick Mettetal who encouraged us to take on these bold initiatives knowing of our commitment to community service. Dick retired this past year but was always close to those of us who deliver emergency services for the public. Although it initially required a substantial outlay of fire department funds then followed by a great deal of coordination with community and business leaders, all these actions were the right thing to do for those we serve," said Chief Rosesteel.

Altogether, a total of 4 grants have been received totaling nearly $30,000. Commenting on the activity to date, VHC President Rauschenberg said, "Community reaction has been outstanding, too. AED's are now becoming commonplace in airports, shopping centers, office buildings and even golf courses, and we are deeply indebted to MIEMSS for their advocacy and support for us."

According to Chief Rosensteel, "an AED is small, portable and easy to use, and even enables anyone with minimal training to give a potentially lifesaving shock to a heart in cardiac arrest - before the arrival of emergency services. Each week it seems now we hear of another documented save somewhere in the region and as we are constantly seeking ways of improving our service this just made sense to our members."

Designed especially for the first person at the scene of a cardiac arrest, an AED tells the rescuer what to do, step by step. It analyzes the heart's rhythm and is designed to recommend a shock only if the person's heart needs it. AED's are so simple to use, even inexperienced grade school children have demonstrated the skills to use them quickly and correctly.

The newly installed units around greater Emmitsburg are like those found county-wide in use in many public places and on emergency vehicles, too, thus making them compatible with regard to standardized training and even "interoperability" which has become a by-word of the emergency services since 9-11. Medtronic Physio-Control of Redmond, Washington manufactured Vigilant's Life-Pack CR Plus units.

"Fibrillation is when the heart is like a bowl of Jell-O - it's just shaking. And, the American Heart Association recommends defibrillation within 3-5 minutes of arrest. Sudden cardiac arrest is a leading cause of death in our country. A person in sudden cardiac arrest becomes unconscious and immediately drops without any breathing or pulse. Although it's vital to call 911, and begin CPR, it sometimes is not enough and the proper administration of an AED significantly increases a person's likelihood of survival," Rosensteel said.

To date, approximately 75 members of the public have been trained on AED use. Public Access AED locations around greater Emmitsburg include the Jubilee Food Store, Mount Saint Mary's University (which received 2 units, 1 for the Security Office and 1 for the ARCC), the Mountain Manor Rehabilitation Center, the Emmitsburg Town Office, 1 each for the Town's 2 Resident Deputies and the fire station itself. In addition to Brush 66, Vigilant also equipped it's command vehicle, Duty 6, and heavy rescue vehicle, Squad 6, plus has a unit installed on the wall at the main entrance of the fire station for those times when emergency vehicles are out on calls, a public gathering is in the fire station and/or for multiple responses occurring at the same time.

Via the latest grant received last week, Vigilant will able to increase training of its personnel who will be training even more members of the public and also purchase additional public access AED's. On the wall-mounted units, the storage cabinets have alarms that sound when the cabinet door is opened. The primary reason for the alarms is to notify persons in the area who can immediately dial 911 without delay. A secondary purpose of the alarms is to prevent tampering; no problems have been experienced to date.

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