County unveils new lifesaving equipment
54 defibrillators will be located around Charles; safe for the public to use
The Charles County Safety Office on Tuesday unveiled an easy-to-use lifesaving device at a public ceremony at The Jude House Inc. in Bel Alton. The Jude House is one of many county-owned facilities that will be receiving the devices, called automated external defibrillators, or AEDs.
Commissioners’ President Peter F. Murphy (D) and Commissioner Ken Robinson (D) were on hand to witness a demonstration of an AED on a mannequin and learn about how easy it is for anyone to use the equipment to save a life.
Robinson opened the event
by noting that cardiac arrest is one of the leading causes of death in the United States. “Each minute defibrillation is delayed, the chance of survival is reduced by approximately 10 percent,” Robinson said. “I’m happy to say that Charles County is working to improve these statistics among our residents by installing 54 AED machines throughout government buildings, community centers and local parks.”
Joane Gulvas, the Charles County safety officer, explained that AEDs are portable devices that check the heart rhythm and send an electric shock to the heart to try and restore normal rhythm. “The AEDs we purchased are very user friendly,” she said. “Any lay person can take it off the shelf and use it. They not only show the individual what to do, but also have audio that tells them what to do.”
To purchase the 54 AEDs, the safety office applied for and received a grant of nearly $20,000 from the CPR Savers AED Grant Program. CPR Savers & First Aid Supply is a national distributor of lifesaving products and equipment for government agencies, first responders, hospitals, schools and individuals.
“We’ve added AEDs to county parks, community centers and rec centers, as well as places like the Jude Center here, which is so important to our county,” Gulvas said. “In most of the parks, they’re located under the concession canopies.”
Charles County Department of Emergency Services paramedics Pam Gantt and Suzanne Chagnon demonstrated the steps for operating the new AED. The device provides clear verbal instructions for each step, along with clearly drawn diagrams and buttons that flash when it is time to push them. “Shock advised,” intones the device in a loud, clear voice. “Stay clear of patient. Press the flashing orange button now. Shock delivered.”
“You don’t have to be afraid of hurting someone because these machines actually know whether or not the individual is in a rhythm that needs a shock,” explained Gulvas after the demonstration. “If that individual does not need a shock from the AED, it will not shock.” In such an instance, the device will automatically begin guiding the user in how to apply CPR using audible beats for timing chest compressions and breaths.
“I think it’s a huge benefit,” Dr. Roshonda Contee, executive director and clinical director of The Jude House, said after the event. “Certainly we have staff who are CPR certified, and we make sure we have a certain number of them on each shift, but it’s so much better to have an apparatus on hand to be able to assist us while waiting for medical assistance.”
The Jude House has three AEDs, one in each of the residential wings and one in the lobby. Contee explained that the county safety office will be providing training to Jude House staff in using the AEDs and refresher training in performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).
A video demonstration of an AED is included in the county commissioners’ monthly report for June, which is available on the CCGTV Commissioners channel on YouTube at https://www. youtube.com/watch?v=fGADSOGvPIo.
John Filer, chief of emergency medical services in the Charles County Department of Emergency Services, praised the efforts of the Safety Office in obtaining the AEDs. “Our average response time is eight and a half minutes, which is below the national standard, which is phenomenal. As good as that is, eight and a half minutes is still too long. So the everyday common citizen using hands-only CPR and using the public access AED system is the key to life.”
Filer noted that Maryland, like other states, has a “Good Samaritan” law that indemnifies people who offer assistance to others who appear to be injured or incapacitated. The law is intended to encourage bystanders to assist people in medical need without fear of legal repercussions if they accidentally injure the other person while doing so.
Filer warned that people should follow the AED’s verbal instructions closely because the electric shock is very strong. “I’ve been shocked before,” he said. “You’ll never forget it for the rest of your life, trust me.”
Even so, the county’s new AEDs can be used safely by almost anyone. “Middle school kids can use it, and elementary school kids can too,” he said. “When we hold our EMS for Children Teddy Bear clinics, high school kids are a little too cool to do it, but elementary school kids will play with it all day long. It’s that simple.”
“It just takes enough courage to say, ‘I want to be a hero today,’” Filer said.
Charles County will be placing 54 easy-to-use portable defibrillators like this one in county-owned parks, recreational and sports facilities, and buildings.