ALTOONA, BLAIR COUNTY - Nearly three dozen area police departments will soon have new life-saving equipment. The UPMC Altoona Foundation is donating automatic external defibrillators (AEDs) to all law enforcement agencies in Blair County
The foundation announced the gift Wednesday at a meeting of the Blair County police chiefs. Dr Shaun Sheehan, the Director of Emergency Medical Services at UPMC Altoona spearheaded the program. Dr. Sheehan noted that sudden cardiac arrest is one of the leading causes of death in this country and the possibility of survival decreases by 7 to 10 percent, every minute after someone collapses.
An AED is a portable device that automatically diagnoses life-threatening heart arrythmia and applies a shock to stop it. That can allow the heart to re-establish an effective rhythm.
In most communties, more police cruisers are on the streets than ambulances, and officers often arrive at the scene of a call before medical crews.
Greenfield Township's police were the first in the county to have an AED and Chief Ron Givler has used it. "It's nice whenever I heard the paramedic that was on the call turn around and look at the wife of the man that I had just used the AED on, saying 'this man just saved your husband's life.'" "It's indescribable," he remembers.
The officers say as part of their CPR training, the police departments in Blair County have been taught to use AEDs and most have at least one. Still they are looking forward to receiving the new equipment.
Duncansville Police Chief Jim Ott says, "if we save one we've done a great justice, so having one in the field is just a more positive effect we can give our community."
And Dr. Sheehan adds, "I think we'll save some lives, absolutely."
The new AEDS, which represent a donation of $50,000, are expected to arrive within a month