Even if you are fortunate enough to be located near an EMS station, or in an area with shorter than average response times, add to that the minutes needed to alert EMS, dispatch responders, and then once they arrive, get to the side of the victim and set up a defibrillator. Are the fireman/EMTs full time or volunteers? How do you know they won't be out on another call when they receive yours? Recall that for every minute defibrillation is delayed a sudden cardiac arrest victim's chance of survival decreases by 7-10%. Having your own team trained and prepared to respond can make a difference when every minute counts. An early defibrillation program is not a replacement for local emergency medical services, but a complimentary program designed to save more lives.
Federal and most state laws provide "Good Samaritan" protection to properly trained individuals who come to the aid of a sudden cardiac arrest victim. This protection is generally conditioned on the defibrillator being properly maintained, and individuals being properly trained in its use. For these reasons, many professionals suggest that the best protection is to implement a complete early defibrillation program that meets professionally accepted standards. There is a growing consensus that having a defibrillation program may help reduce liability, by providing treatment without which a victim will most likely die. Increasingly, lawsuits are being waged against organizations that have failed to have access to a defibrillator when an emergency arose. In some states, certain organizations are required to have defibrillators by law.
There is no exact rule to determine the number of defibrillators required for an organization. The goal of an early defibrillation program is to achieve a 3-4 minute response time from the collapse of the victim to arrival of the defibrillator and delivery of the first shock. Among the objectives of a site assessment is to determine the number of defibrillators required, and the most effective locations for their placement. High-risk locations, barriers to access, and other factors all must be considered as part of a complete site assessment.
Sudden cardiac arrest can happen to anyone, at any time. Although there are certain risk factors such as age, heart disease, and other conditions, many victims of SCA have no prior heart problems or warning signs. Even children have been victims of SCA.
Although CPR is very important, it only serves to "buy time" for a victim of sudden cardiac arrest. SCA is caused by abnormal electrical activity in the heart - ventricular fibrillation, and CPR alone cannot correct this. The shock delivered by a defibrillator can interrupt this abnormal activity and allow the heart to resume its normal pumping action. Defibrillation is the only definitive treatment for SCA. CPR is still important to use in case the victim does not respond to defibrillation, or as instructed by the defibrillator.
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