Steamboat Springs After more than two years, Routt County Sheriff Gary Wall now has the life-saving equipment he has been pleading for.
Heart defibrillators, or AEDs, have been placed in all 15 vehicles that patrol the 2,362 square miles in Routt County. The AEDs analyze a person’s heart rhythm and automatically determine whether a shock is necessary.
“It’s wonderful that we finally got them, but it’s incredible that we didn’t get them a couple years ago,” Wall said.
Wall’s vehicle now carries an AED, as does Undersheriff David Bustos’ and the two animal control vehicles. An additional one was bought for the jail, and publicly accessible units were put in the Routt County Justice Center and Routt County Courthouse.
Routt County decided in fall to buy 30 AEDs with an American Red Cross grant that allowed for a 47 percent discount. The county paid $33,644.
Wall has been highly critical of the Routt County Board of Commissioners for members’ reluctance to buy the units sooner. Wall first approached the commissioners with a $23,000 supplemental budget request in August 2008 to outfit all the patrol vehicles with AEDs. Commissioners denied the request, citing, in part, a budget that already was $1 million over.
Wall said he has been promoting defibrillators throughout his four-year term as sheriff, which will end Jan. 11. He bought one AED early in his term after learning the jail did not have one.
“I got criticized because I didn’t go through the proper channels to purchase something that cost that much,” Wall said. “I just said, ‘Get it.’”
Wall reiterated the need to buy more AEDs in June after deputies treated an Ohio man having a heart attack in the Sheriff’s Office parking lot. Deputies performed CPR, and an ambulance arrived before the AED unit could be brought through the many locked doors of the jail. The man did not survive. Emergency responders said having an AED there sooner might have saved the man’s life, Wall said.
“If you can save one life, it’s worth the $30,000,” Wall said.
Commission Chairwoman Nancy Stahoviak said she has supported buying AEDs, but she and other commissioners wanted to make sure there was a plan for deciding how many to buy and where to place them. In addition to the sheriff, county department leaders also supported the purchase.
“We were kind of on the path of doing it anyway,” Stahoviak said.
The county had to make sure there were AED policies in place.
“The majority of the discussion was, what was the county liability … and what do we have to do statutorily to limit liability.”
As part of the implementation process, county employees had to undergo AED and CPR training.
The devices have become more commonplace at public buildings and gathering places. Similar devices are standard equipment on fire trucks and ambulances.
Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. has more than a dozen, with several located in the three on-mountain restaurant buildings and the Information Center in Gondola Square. Each school in the Steamboat Springs School District has an AED, as does Old Town Hot Springs, Howelsen Hill, Catamount Ranch & Club and Yampa Valley Medical Center. The Steamboat Springs Police Department has access to several. Hayden Police Department officers do not carry them.
“It would be a great idea to have them in every police car in the valley,” said Hayden Police Chief Ray Birch, who will become undersheriff Jan. 11.