Greenfield Police Department gets new defibrillators

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GREENFIELD — Rod Vawter has been a police officer for 14 years, most of them with the Greenfield Police Department. A couple of months ago, the sergeant arrived on the scene of an incident to find a man with no pulse.

Thanks to training, Vawter didn’t waste a second and knew immediately what to do. He went to work on the man using a portable Lifepak defibrillator, one he carries in his car for situations just like this.

By the time paramedics arrived, the man had a pulse and a fighting chance at life.

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“It really makes it nice to have this kind of tool right there because a lot of times we’re the first people on the scene,” Vawter said.

Thanks to several grants from area businesses, all 28 Greenfield Police Department patrol units will now be equipped with either Lifepak defibrillators or new automated external defibrillators known as AEDs. An AED is a small, lightweight device that allows others to treat sudden cardiac arrest by delivering a shock to the victim’s heart.

The police department was able to purchase seven new state-of-the-art digital AEDs recently and plans to have them in their patrol cars within the next couple of weeks, said Matt Holland, GPD deputy chief.

Holland was doing a standard audit on the police department’s inventory last year when he realized seven officers were not equipped with the life-saving devices.

The portable devices cost approximately $1,325 each. Holland knew the department didn’t have enough money in the budget to buy seven AEDs, so he quickly did some research and applied for a safety grant through the Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation. GPD was awarded $5,300 to purchase several.

The police department got the rest of the funding through local grants from Walmart ($3,000); NineStar Connect ($1,325); and Keihin IPT ($1,000.)

“Anytime somebody is suffering a heart attack and there is an AED on the scene, their chances of surviving are a whole lot better,” Holland said.

According to statistics from the National Safety Council, quick access to an AED could increase the odds of survival from about 5 percent to 40 percent and higher, while CPR is only 2 percent to 18 percent effective.

Greenfield police officers normally respond to calls about cardiac arrest and people who are non-responsive.

The newer defibrillators are more sophisticated than the older Lifepaks. Department officials plan to gradually replace the older units.

Other agencies also carry the devices. The Hancock County Sheriff’s Department equips its deputies with AEDs. Indiana State Police has 465 AEDs in vehicles, the agency says.

Training on the units is fairly easy. It takes about 20 minutes and is normally done when officers go through annual CPR certification, Holland said.

The newer units also come with operating instructions via a voice tutorial to help talk the operator through the work should they forget the training.

“It’s really pretty self-explanatory,” Holland said.

Vawter has never felt nervous when using his portable defibrillator, he said. He estimates paramedics arrive on the scene at the same time as police officers about 80 percent of the time. He’s glad he has the defibrillator unit on those occasions when they don’t.

“There’s nothing worse than being on the scene and not being able to do something while you’re waiting for the paramedics,” Vawter said.

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A defibrillator is a small, lightweight device that allows others to treat sudden cardiac arrest by delivering a shock to the victim’s chest, ideally re-starting his or her heart. There is no danger of harming a patient who might not need defibrillation because a defibrillator diagnoses dangerous heart rhythms and responds accordingly.

AEDs, or automated external defibrillators, are user-friendly and even "talk" the user through the process. Training is required, but the user doesn’t have to be a medical professional, which is ideal for first responders such as police officers.

Studies have shown that AEDs used in the early stages of cardiac arrest improve the victim’s chances of survival.

Source: National Safety Council

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