Our View: Wall leaves behind AED legacy
December 29, 2010
Steamboat Springs — Routt County Sheriff Gary Wall is leaving office next month, closing out a four-year ride that wasn't without its bumps. But Wall departs with at least one lasting, positive legacy: the automated external defibrillators in every Routt County Sheriff's Office patrol vehicle.
Wall had campaigned for AEDs starting with a supplemental budget request to the Routt County Board of Commissioners in 2008. The commissioners denied the request, partly because Wall's department budget already was $1 million over (that budget overage was remedied). He reiterated the need for defibrillators after a man had a heart attack in the Sheriff's Office parking lot in June and didn't survive. 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.
Commission Chairwoman Nancy Stahoviak said the commissioners and county department leaders supported buying AEDs and were on the path toward making the purchase. Still, Wall's persistence helped make it happen.
The defibrillators are easy to use with proper training, and county employees have been trained to use them and to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation. On its website, the American Heart Association explains how the medical devices work: "An AED can check a person's heart rhythm. It can recognize a rhythm that requires a shock. And it can advise the rescuer when a shock is needed. The AED uses voice prompts, lights and text messages to tell the rescuer the steps to take."
The decision to put defibrillators in sheriff's deputies' patrol cars isn't exactly a no-brainer — during tight budget times, nothing is — but the devices are a great investment. A cardiac incident can strike at any time, and everyone visiting and living in Routt County is better off when emergency responders have the tools they need to save a life.
The American Heart Association also supports the practice. It promotes putting defibrillators in all emergency medical service first-response vehicles and ambulances, as well as public areas such as sports arenas, gated communities, office complexes, doctor's offices and more. Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. has more than a dozen AEDs, and schools and other facilities in Steamboat such as Howelsen Hill keep them on hand.
This change at the county and Sheriff's Office might serve as a prompt for other local businesses to consider AEDs when appropriate (training is important, the heart association stresses). The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration noted that in 2001 and 2002, 1,216 of the 6,628 workplace deaths reported to the agency resulted from heart attacks, 354 from electric shocks and 267 from asphyxia. Of those, OSHA estimates that as many as 60 percent could have been prevented by defibrillators.
"Chances of survival from sudden cardiac death diminish by 7 to 10 percent for each minute without immediate CPR or defibrillation. After 10 minutes, resuscitation rarely succeeds," OSHA states on its website.
So as Wall steps down, we'd like to thank him for pushing the county toward the purchase of AEDs. If the devices save one life, they're more than worth the price tag.