Cops and Firefighters Working Together Save More Than 100 Citizens isn t a headline you see every day. Yet in the city of Rochester, Minn., an early defibrillation program involving the city fire and police departments is doing just that.
The Olmsted County Early Defibrillation Program is the brainchild of Roger White, MD, FACC, medical director for the city of Rochester. In the late 1980s, he and a colleague reviewed cardiac arrest calls and noticed police officers were often on-scene before fire or emergency medical service crews. White began field-testing a program to place automated external defibrillators (AEDs) in police cars.
According to White, the program is pretty straightforward. He presented the idea to the chief of police, fire chief and city council. It was very easily accepted by both departments, White says. [The police and fire departments] were pleased to have the opportunity, since they were both responding to medical emergencies.
Recognizing the Value of an AED
Since it s inception in November 1990, the program in Rochester has expanded to include every police car and fire vehicle. We can get to anyone quickly, White says. Rochester, a city of 97,000 located 70 miles south of Minneapolis-St. Paul, deploys between 12 and 20 squad cars daily. Since the police patrol the streets 24 hours a day, seven days a week, they re in a unique position to assist citizens in cardiac arrest.
Police officers are trained First Responders. The fire rescue crews are trained at the EMT-B level. Gold Cross Ambulance Service provides advanced life support and transport services.
White trained the officers to use the AED, although, as Rochester Police Department (RPD) Officer Tom Faudskar says in an interview recorded for Philips Healthcare, the company that sold the department the AEDs, The device is so easy to use. It s an incredibly useful tool.
It didn t take long for the Rochester police to recognize the value of an AED. According to White, eight lives out of 15 witnessed ventricular fibrillation arrests were saved in 2003. Of those eight saves, police officers arrived first on scene seven times. Each one of those saves cost me $187.50, says Steve Johnston, RPD deputy chief. There s no other tool we have that s so directly linked to life and death as a defibrillator.
White says arming police with an AED saves minutes when minutes are critical. We ve seen over and over again the time from when a call is received until a shock is delivered is the most critical determinant of whether or not a patient survives a cardiac arrest, he says.
RPD Chief Roger L. Peterson says having the proper tools for the call is critical to an officer. They re not going to go to a bank robbery without their guns, and they don t want to go to a heart attack without a defibrillator, Peterson says.
The officers find it incredibly gratifying to have the ability to use the equipment to save lives, says White. RPD Sergeant Craig Anderson has had three defibrillator saves. You can t even describe how great of a feeling that is, he says. RPD Officer David Drees, who is credited with helping save 65-year-old retired officer Alan Fritsche, describes the program as a mutually positive experience with citizens. We don t get that very often, he adds.
Just ask Rochester resident Charlie Butruff. He suffered a cardiac arrest while sitting in his favorite chair at home. Officers arrived within five minutes, assessed him and found no pulse. One officer prepared the AED while the other performed CPR. By the time the Rochester Fire Department and paramedics with Gold Cross Ambulance Service arrived, Butruff s heart was already beating.
White maintains quality control of the program by reviewing every incident with the police and fire members involved. They listen to an audio recording of the event in White s office. If retraining is required, the respective agencies handle it themselves. White meets with both agencies separately and together for base stations.
Initially, White admits there may have been some competition between the police officers and firefighters. But it was minimal and short-lived, he says. We made it clear to both agencies that this was a cooperative venture. By cooperating, we can increase the survival of cardiac patients, he says.
It s a mistake not to examine the possibility that the addition of the police might improve survival rates, White says. Rochester claims survival rates of roughly 50 percent, well above the national average of one in 20 cardiac arrest patients.
On Sept. 20, 2007, the program was credited with saving its 101st life. According to Deputy Chief Johnston, the early defibrillation program is, by far, the most successful life saving program the police department has ever been involved in. It boils down to protection and service. What could people want to protect more than their own lives? he says.
For more information on Law Enforcement Early Defibrillation Programs, contact Philips Healthcare at 800/934-7372 or visit www.policedefib.com.