Armed with AEDs, officers are prepared to save lives
In his line of work, proliferation isn't often a word Newberg Dundee Police Chief Brian Casey likes to hear.
But when it comes to automated external defibrillators (AEDs), it's music to his ears that Newberg and communities across the country are slowly but surely installing them in more and more locations just in case someone nearby suffers cardiac arrest.
Casey is just as pleased that the NDPD has been working to the same end.
Over the past four years, Casey said the department has been adding the life-saving devices to its fleet of vehicles simply because they are often in the best position to arrive on the scene first.
"We're obviously out in the public a lot and the more cars we have them in, there's a better chance of us helping somebody," Casey said. "Even in our detective cars, those guys are out doing various things around the community and they're all trained in the use of it by our policy. So if they're trained in it and they got it, there's always a chance they could help somebody."
The department has now reached the point where 12 of the department's 14 patrol cars are equipped with AEDs. Casey added that a recent Pamplin Media Group news story prompted a retired NDPD corporal to reach out and donate one himself.
"That's perfect," Casey said. "That's exactly what we'd like to see happen."
The department has acquired its devices in a number of ways, according to Casey, including from the fire department, through grant programs and purchasing them directly.
"It's a tool and the price of them has come down, so they're more affordable. I remember when we first started getting those things, I think they were up close to $2,000 apiece."
The chief is also planning to equip the vehicles of the detectives and that in addition to providing in-house the CPR and emergency first-aid training that is required by the state, the NDPD also annually recertifies its officers to use AEDs.
"I think that's probably the norm now for law enforcement," Casey said. "It's not excessive training. We have certified trainers and training AEDs. We practice putting them on the training dummies."
Corporal Del Linck, who has been serving in Newberg since 1998, is one of the department's certified trainers and recalls toting around and using an AED as far back as 2001. He was on motorcycle patrol then and was given an AED by retired Newberg Fire Department battalion chief Frank Douglas specifically so that he could respond to cardiac arrest calls, so the idea is not new, but how widespread they've become is.
"We've got people out on the road at any given moment and they could be anywhere in the city or close by where an AED is needed," Linck said. "That's the key, the early intervention, early CPR, early shock."
Because AEDs are fully automated and will walk responders through the process with verbal commands, the training does not take very long. And while awareness of AEDs has risen significantly, he thinks far too many people likely believe that simply having the device and applying a shock is all that's required.
In reality, CPR training is essential because in addition to performing it before an AED can be located and brought to a person suffering cardiac arrest, the device itself will also instruct users to perform chest compressions.
According Linck, chest compressions need to be at a rate of at least 100 beats per minute and that the Bee Gees' disco hit "Stayin' Alive" is a helpful reference point. Using proper form is also important to avoid fatigue.
"I think there are probably a lot of people that think you just grab that thing and put it on and then they should wake up," Linck said. "That's certainly not the truth. The heart needs oxygen to stay alive. That's why they do rapid compressions to get the heart back in that coarse (ventricular) fibrillation and the heart's back in a nutrient-rich state where it can accept the shock."
The AED instructions also include removing the victim's clothing around the chest so the charging pads can be attached. Linck noted that this can be especially important for women because if an underwire bra is left on, it can cause serious damage when the charge is applied.
It's equally important to follow the device's instructions to stay clear of the body during the shock.
"It's telling everybody to stand clear because if I'm touching the person during the shock, it can put you into a bad arrhythmia and you can go unconscious," Linck said. "So you really want to stress that everybody is clear."
Officer Nathan James, who has worked full time for the department since 2004, said it's been hit or miss whether an officer on patrol will be the first to arrive on scene, but with the department's fleet nearly fully equipped, he's been on a few calls in the last year alone.
"Every person out there, like a police officer," James said, "that is going to have a cool head and is able to act under pressure is another asset."