Six U.S. law enforcement agencies begun using Royal Philips Electronics' HeartStart FRx Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) for their officers to use in vehicles, according to the company.

The AEDs enable officers to assist victims of sudden cardiac arrest, which is one of the leading causes of death in the U.S. and claims approximately 295,000 lives each year.

Since officers are often first to arrive at the scene of a cardiac emergency, it is crucial to have immediate access to an AED if a victim is experiencing cardiac arrest. Defibrillation is recognized as the definitive treatment for ventricular fibrillation, the abnormal heart rhythm most often associated with cardiac arrest.

While CPR may help prolong the window of survival, it cannot restore a normal cardiac rhythm. For every minute that goes by without defibrillation, a cardiac arrest victim's chance of survival decreases by about 10 percent. After 10 minutes without defibrillation, attempts at resuscitation are unlikely to succeed.

The six law enforcement agencies that recently acquired HeartStart Defibrillators are based in Milwaukee and New Berlin, Wis.; Manatee, Fla.; Bellevue and Kent, Wash.; and Dunwoody, Ga., according to the company.

"Our mission is to prevent the loss of life, and because we are often the first to arrive at emergencies—including medical emergencies—our ability to take lifesaving action is vital," according to Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn. "Having AEDs in our vehicles will enhance the service our police officers can provide to the community."

In less than six months, Dunwoody police vehicles and several high-risk areas within the police department and courthouse were equipped to respond to a cardiac emergency. Also, the Dunwoody 911 protocol was revised to include police on the first responder dispatch for emergencies involving collapse.

An AED automatically detects potentially life-threatening cardiac arrhythmias and can be used to treat them through defibrillation, the application of electrical therapy that stops the arrhythmia, allowing the heart to reestablish an effective rhythm. The HeartStart FRx AED provides clear voice commands to guide users through the steps of the defibrillation process, including CPR coaching. The FRx is designed to handle extreme weather conditions and to be used successfully by responders, such as police officers, who are not medical professionals.

"With demonstrated clinical leadership in both early defibrillation and quality, Philips HeartStart is proud to be the industry's leading AED brand," said Kevin Maguire, general manager of the HeartStart Automated External Defibrillator business for Philips Healthcare. "The adoption of AEDs by law enforcement agencies will enable faster response times and may significantly increase survival rates."

To the City of Durham, N.C., police department, which has deployed Philips defibrillators, the value of AEDs is no surprise.

"Within the past six months, there were two occasions when we needed an AED to resuscitate our own officers who went into sudden cardiac arrest," said Jim Bjurstrom, deputy chief of the Durham (N.C.) PD. "During both emergencies, we had a HeartStart defibrillator on hand and were able to provide a lifesaving shock."