Eight Keys to a Successful AED Program

A properly trained officer with an automated external defibrillator can save a life, but only if an agency commits to fielding AEDs.

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The highest priority of service for every man and woman who wears the badge is to save lives. The number one cause of death in the United States is cardiac arrest. Currently, the only effective treatment for cardiac arrest is cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and a shock from an automated external defibrillator (AED) administered as quickly as possible. 

Every second counts with cardiac arrest, and defibrillation within three minutes can increase survival up to 70%. Law enforcement officers are on patrol 24/7, which allows for more rapid response than fire/EMS. Departments all across the country are evolving to better serve their communities. One of the best ways to increase survival in the cardiac emergencies that your officers respond to is to equip them with AEDs. Often police departments wish to adapt and implement AEDs into patrol; however, they don't know where to begin. If your agency is looking to implement a program, here are eight keys for success.

1. Set up an AED deployment plan.

Will all of your patrol units be equipped? Will your specialty units be getting AEDs? Will the units all be distributed at once or rolled out over time? If the latter, you'll have to decide which units will be equipped first based on criteria like primary duties, populated geography of your jurisdiction, and which officers have advanced medical training. Write out the deployment plan and have it reviewed by your command staff.

2. Know how to find funding.

A variety of grants are available for agencies implementing an AED program. You may also find donors in your community who will generously contribute to this lifesaving effort. Your agency may also be able to pay for the program by altering its budget. No matter how you fund the AED program, be sure you factor in the cost of replacing equipment and projected growth of your department in your calculations.

3. Reach out to other departments and inquire about their AED program implementation.

Does a neighboring agency already have an AED program? Discuss with them what successes and obstacles they have had. Were there any issues they encountered when they first rolled out their program?

4. Coordinate with your local fire department and ambulance service.

What AEDs do they recommend? Do they have any advice on police response to cardiac incidents? Do they have any safety recommendations? Are they up for joint response training to better increase chances of survival? Do they already have an established relationship with a provider/distributor?

5. Update your Officers' CPR and AED training before implementation.

This is a crucial step. Make sure all your department's personnel are trained. Remember, the lives saved by AEDs may be law enforcement officers'. Law enforcement is one of the most stressful professions, and officers have a higher risk of cardiac issues.

6. Mandate periodic training refreshers on CPR and AED.

Cardiac care is ever changing and there are continuous advances in medicine and emergency response. Make sure your officers are up to date and ready to respond to cardiac arrest with current protocols and techniques.

7. Put a policy in place for your AED program.

How will they be carried in your patrol units? How often will they be checked and receive periodic maintenance? Where will they be stored? How will their usage be reported and overseen?

8. Track and recognize your saves.

Take the time to recognize your department's saves for your officers, the patient, and the community. Cardiac arrest saves are a huge deal for all involved and the preservation of life is our highest priority as public servants. The lifesaving actions of your officers are also great public relations.

Brandon Griffith is a decorated police officer, an instructor with emergency medical training, and the co-founder of Griffith Blue Heart. He is one of the few American officers to return to full active duty after cardiac arrest and has a defibrillator implanted in his chest. Griffith has years of experience in CPR/AED advocacy and AED acquisition.

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