AED Life-savers abound at Tinker

Tinker Public Affairs -- A relatively small automatic machine could be the difference between life and death. The device is called an Automatic External Defibrillator, or AED. 

The AED is a portable electronic device that diagnoses and treats potentially life-threatening cardiac arrhythmias. With the application of electrical therapy, it stops the arrhythmia and allows the heart to re-establish an effective rhythm. 

"About 300,000 (Americans) a year die from cardiac arrest away from the hospital," said Maj. Abe Timmons, commander of the 72nd Medical Group's Occupational Medicine Flight and medical director for the Tinker AED program. 

"By having [AEDs] placed in strategic locations, we can save about one third of those people," he added. 

These life-saving devices are installed in 170 locations all around Tinker. 

Marcus Brown, Public Access Defibrillator coordinator at Tinker, said installation of the devices began in 2003 in response to the Cardiac Arrest Survival Act that encouraged the placement of AED's in federal buildings and provided protection for users against unfair lawsuits. 

Every building with an AED is assigned at least one coordinator who is responsible for quarterly training exercises. 

Master Sgt. Vanessa Hammond, AED coordinator for Bldg. 460, said her May 11 training exercise was aimed at getting people comfortable with the machine. 

"We are mostly concerned that they know what it is, the time frames of use and who the trained first responders are," Sgt. Hammond said. 

Dena Hale, a trained first responder for Bldg. 460, said ideally defibrillation, CPR and a 911 call should be handled in the first four minutes of the incident. However, if the AED is used within six minutes of cardiac arrest, the survival rate is 80 percent. It drops to 30 percent at eight minutes, said Tech Sgt. Mickey Leckie, assistant AED coordinator for Bldg. 460. 

"Our workforce is getting older and if someone does have a heart attack, it can save people's lives," said 72nd Mission Support Squadron Commander Maj. Edward Veitch, who attended the training session. 

Sgt. Leckie said the updated AED machine takes all of the guesswork out of using it. The defibrillator is automated, automatic and battery-operated with no manual adjustments. 

It guides the user through the process by audible or visual prompts without requiring any discretion or judgment. The machine will evaluate the heart rhythm and then determine if shock is needed. 

Although the AED is easy to use, it is recommended that you alert a trained first responder (if available) in case of an emergency. If a trained first responder is not available, there are some steps to follow, Sgt. Leckie said. 

First, look, listen and feel for breathing and a pulse. If the patient is breathless, doesn't have a pulse and is unconscious, it may be appropriate to use the AED. 

Sgt. Leckie said the machines are almost essential to any high-traffic place. 

"Short of EMS on the scene 24/7, this is the best thing because anybody can use it," he said. 

AED advocates predict that AEDs will soon be placed in most public buildings, transportation centers, large offices, fitness centers and apartment complexes. Mr. Brown said the demand for the defibrillators is consistent and growing at Tinker also. 

The machines cost anywhere from $1,000 - $3,000. 

The point of contact for AED training and information should be listed above the AED machine in your building. For the location of an AED near you, call Mr. Brown at 734-3427.