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All city patrol cars getting defibrillators next month

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New automated, external defibrillators will be placed next month in all Columbus Police Department patrol cars, and officers will be trained to use the potentially life-saving equipment.

The city purchased the portable units, which will be available in situations where officers witness sudden cardiac arrest. While they wait for other emergency medical personnel, the officers could begin CPR and use the defibrillators if needed.

Even a few minutes can mean the difference between life and death when the heart has stopped beating or starts beating erratically, police said.

“We’re very lucky to live in a city where the fire department is very quick to respond,” Columbus Police Chief Jason Maddix said. “But seconds count in a cardiac event, and we might be the first on the scene.”

New defibrillators

What: An automated external defibrillator, according to the American Heart Association, delivers an electric shock through the chest to the heart. The shock can stop an irregular rhythm and allow a normal rhythm to resume in a heart during sudden cardiac arrest.

A built-in computer in this type of defibrillator checks a victim’s heart rhythm through adhesive electrodes. The computer calculates whether defibrillation is needed. The shock momentarily stuns the heart and stops all activity. It gives the heart the chance to resume beating effectively.

Who will receive new units: Columbus Police Department and Columbus Fire Department.

How many: 67 units total, with 55 going into police patrol cars.

Cost: $73,700 from city’s general fund

Maddix hopes to have the units in place and officers trained by the end of February.

Columbus Fire Department will assist with training, as well as Northern Kentucky EMS, the company from which the units were purchased.

The city bought 67 units. Fifty-five will be reserved for patrol cars, and others will be placed in city buildings, including Columbus City Hall and Columbus Police Department. Others will go to fire department administrative vehicles.

The city paid $73,700 for the defibrillators, using general fund capital improvement money, said Jeff Logston, the city’s director of operations and finance.

“It really enhances the services we offer,” Logston said. “It magnifies the number of responders we have, whether they are at work or just out and available.”

Mike Kutsko, deputy chief of emergency medical services for Columbus Fire Department, said CPR combined with early defibrillation can greatly increase the chances of survival for someone who is experiencing sudden cardiac arrest.

He said the American Heart Association found that defibrillation is most successful when performed within five to eight minutes of cardiac arrest. The chance of survival decreases every minute people are in a life-threatening situation.

Kutsko uses a simple analogy when explaining what happens to a body during cardiac arrest and how a defibrillator can help. He said it’s like a personal computer user needing to hit “control-alt-delete” to reboot.

“It can shock the heart back into rhythm,” he said.

Logston said the defibrillators purchased are user friendly and come in a case about the size of a handbag. They include an audible voice that walks the user through certain steps that need to be completed.

Sensor pads are placed on the chest, and information is transmitted to the unit, which assesses the situation and instructs the user if a shock needs to be applied in an attempt to regain a regular heartbeat.

Logston said the batteries and sensor pads will last about five years and the units longer than that.

“We’re excited to have them and hope we’ll be able to have some positive outcomes,” Maddix said.

Bartholomew County Deputy Sheriff Maj.Todd Noblitt said the county officers have had defibrillators in their patrol cars since 1999 and they have been used numerous times.

In some cases, lives were saved.

“Especially out in the county, our guys are going to be the first on the scene,” Noblitt said. “When they (victims) are in cardiac arrest, using the defibrillators could be their best chance of survival.”

Originally, the sheriff’s department received 15 units, but they eventually added enough to place them in all vehicles. About two years ago, new units were purchased to replace older models.

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