County Emergency Medical Service (EMS) staff have made progress in their plan to increase the number of emergency, life-saving defibrillators available across Kiowa County.

County Emergency Medical Service (EMS) staff have made progress in their plan to increase the number of emergency, life-saving defibrillators available across Kiowa County. 

“We can show up with an ambulance full of paramedics, but the two things that can save lives are early cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and early access to defibrillation,” said Kiowa County EMS Director Chad Pore. “It used to be that only trained professionals were able to deliver this type of quick response, but these machines put that ability into the hands of regular people.”

Pore and his staff of first responders have been pushing for an increase in automated external defibrillators (AED) in public buildings.

AEDs are portable medical devices that attempt to detect and correct both cardiac dysrhythmia, a life-threatening irregular beating of the heart, and cardiac arrest.

They are smaller than the normal defibrillators and designed for use outside of traditional medical facilities by untrained, or under-trained people.

Like their larger equivalents, AEDs deliver either a single or a series of electronic shocks to the heart in an attempt to correct irregular heart patterns.

“If someone goes into cardiac arrest, any person can grab one, open it and follow the simple steps,” said Pore. “And just as important, the device will analyze and determine if a shock is necessary.”

All AEDs approved in the United States give audio cues, including where to place and how to place the electric pads. They also advise users of safety precautions and whether additional CPR is necessary.

At the conclusion of the International Guidelines Conference on Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation and Emergency Cardiovascular Care (IGCCRECC) in 2000, members published an overwhelmingly positive consensus report on the use of AEDs.

“With reported survival rates of up to 49%, public access defibrillation has the potential to be the single greatest advance in the treatment of pre-hospital sudden cardiac death since the invention of CPR,” wrote the report.  

While there have been reports of dangerous flaws in AED systems, including manufacturing errors and recalls, most medical professionals agree that AEDs can and are saving lives.

The U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the government agency that oversees workplace conditions, lists AEDs as an “important lifesaving technology.”

A 2004 study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, found that survival rates were nearly double when early responders were trained to use AEDs.

The same study, following about 19,000 volunteer first responders, found that in nearly all cases, untrained responders were able to operate an AED correctly.

Pore said EMS manages and provides maintenance to most, if not all of the AEDs in the county, though they are not required to do so.

They can be privately owned, but require maintenance, battery replacement and upkeep.

“We decided we were going to monitor and maintain them to make sure they were up-to-date with batteries and patches,” said Pore.

About 20 AEDs are now available in public buildings in Greensburg, Mullinville and Haviland.

There are AEDs in the Kiowa County High School, Kiowa County Senior Center, Kiowa County Courthouse, Kiowa County Commons and The Big Well.

The Kiowa County Sheriff’s Dept. has two AEDs available in on-duty vehicles at all times. The Greensburg Police Dept. also has AED in its cruiser.

There is an AED at the Cenex station in Mullinville, The Haviland Clinic and The Haviland Grade School. Both the Haviland and Mullinville Fire Dept. have AEDs as well.

“It’s good that we know they are there,” said Pore. “We want to work with emergency dispatch in the future so if someone calls 911, they know where the nearest AED is. If someone goes into cardiac arrest, they will be able to direct them to the nearest AED.”

Pore said they have recently replaced 17 AEDs at various locations in the county at a cost of about $1,422 each.

“We were able to get them at a discounted rate because we were buying so many of them and one of our part-time EMS guys, Dwayne Billinger is a salesman for the company,” said Pore.

The Lions Club purchased an AED for the Kiowa County Senior Center. Billinger donated two AEDs, TransCanada donated $3,000 to the project and McCownGordon Architects, the Kansas City-based builder, donated an AED to Kiowa County High School.

The Kiowa County Health Department also donated two, one each for the Kiowa County Elementary School in Greensburg and the Haviland Elementary School.

EMS, the Sheriff’s Department and the City of Greensburg also purchased AEDs for their personnel.

Pore also said the Greensburg Recreation Department and United Methodist Church bought AEDs for their buildings. “And we’re working on more,” he added.

County EMS will also have a table at the upcoming Kiowa County Health Fair.

“There have been some changes in CPR,” said Pore. “The consensus now is compressions only, fast and hard. We’ll have a booth. We’ll do 2-minute CPR training and we’ll give demonstrations on the AEDs.”

Billinger met with school officials last week to give a demonstration to teachers and staff and a demonstration at the Kiowa County Senior Center is upcoming.