Lifesaving effort focuses on boosting Columbus' cardiac-arrest survival rate

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Do you know where an automated external defibrillator, or AED, is located near your home or workplace?

Columbus Councilman Mitchell Brown said most people can’t answer this question, but knowing the answer could save lives.

About 600 people die each year from cardiac arrest in Columbus, with only about a 12% survival rate, Brown said. The rest of the country has about a 10% survival rate, according to the American Heart Association.

“To look at this issue, people get excited about opioids, and I understand that, but that doesn’t deny the fact that two people die every day of cardiac arrests,” Brown said.

In January, the city council’s Public Safety Committee formed the HeartSafe Columbus Taskforce to create new strategies to help improve the survival rate from sudden cardiac arrest. That includes increasing education and awareness of hands-only CPR and locations of AED units for both residents and businesses.

Residents can contact the Columbus Division of Fire, American Heart Association or the American Red Cross to receive training on both.

“The key component to increasing those survival numbers is bystander CPR and the use of an automatic defibrillator,” Brown said.

Hands-only CPR does not require rescue breaths, and Columbus 911 dispatchers are trained in walking people through how to do the hands-only CPR method while they wait for EMS to arrive. Defibrillators deliver an electric shock to the heart during a cardiac arrest to get a normal rhythm.

The use of AEDs and hands-only CPR can double or triple the chance of survival, said Cresha Auck, state government relations director at the American Heart Association Columbus and a member of the task force.

Businesses can incorporate onsite training through their human resource departments to make sure all employees know CPR and where an AED is located, Brown said.

The task force also will recommend that city council vote on new legislation that would include earmarking money for AEDs. Brown said the exact amount of money needed for the AEDs is uncertain at this time because it isn’t yet clear how many AEDs are needed, and the costs can vary. Most start at about $1,500, he said.

The legislation also would include an AED registry, Brown said. Businesses and others would be able to contact the Division of Fire to register an AED at a location so it could be used if someone has a heart attack.

The task force includes more than 10 groups in the Columbus area, including city council, the city’s fire and police divisions, other city and state agencies, a few hospital systems, the American Red Cross and American Heart Association.

Auck said the American Heart Association is looking to continue outreach in high need areas and  strategically improve survival rates in Columbus. 

The association had been working with the city prior to the formation of the task force to promote training and awareness of AED use and hands-only CPR, including with Columbus police and fire, she said.

June is CPR Awareness Month, and American Heart Association is encouraging people to learn CPR, Auck said. The group offers hands-only CPR training videos as well as a training kiosk at the John Glenn Columbus International Airport where people can learn to perform hands-only CPR while they wait for their flight.

“A year from now we will look at the data and see if there are improvements,” she said.

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