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Metro Newsroom

Defibrillators Distributed To Suburban Fire Departments

Thursday June 19, 2003

Mayor Jerry Abramson today said his administration is putting 34 life-saving defibrillators in the hands of the people closest to emergencies – the community’s 21 suburban fire departments.

“By putting these devices in the suburban fire departments, virtually every citizen in this community will have the technology to restart hearts within just a few miles of their homes,” Abramson said in a news conference Thursday at McMahan Fire Department.

Abramson and Louisville Metro Police Chief Robert White Thursday transferred the devices, known as Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs), to McMahan Fire Chief Paul Barth. Barth also serves as Abramson’s liaison to the suburban fire districts.

Jewish Hospital HealthCare Services originally donated defibrillators – each of which is about the size of a laptop computer – to the former Jefferson County Police Department in 2000 and again in 2002.

But Abramson said it made sense to transfer ownership of the defibrillators to the suburban fire departments because they are “community-based emergency responders that are geographically distributed throughout the community.”

Most of the suburban fire departments already have personnel trained to use the devices and others are in the process of seeking additional training.

“In most cases, suburban fire departments are the first responders on the scene of medical emergencies in the suburban area,” Abramson said. “We believe we can save more lives in this community by putting the right tools in the hands of the emergency responders who are most often the first on the scene.”

Nearly 25 percent of the people who die each year from cardiac arrest could be saved if they were treated with a defibrillator within the first few minutes of an attack, according to medical experts. In fact, when defibrillation is provided within five to seven minutes, the survival rate from cardiac arrest is as high as 49 percent. Underscoring their importance is the fact that at the Louisville International Airport, defibrillators are placed within a three-minute walk anywhere in the airport. Jewish Hospital donated those defibrillators as well.

As part of its commitment to the health of the community, Jewish Hospital embarked on a program to improve the public's access to defibrillators. When AEDs are combined with cardiopulmonary resuscitation, the survival rate from cardiac arrest improves dramatically.
Abramson said the transfer of defibrillators is being made without any additional cost to taxpayers because of Jewish Hospital’s generosity. The 34 defibrillators are valued at $3,000 each.

The AEDs deliver shocks to the heart, similar to defibrillators used in hospital emergency departments. The AED units are computerized and simple to operate. They automatically analyze the rhythm of the heart and determine whether a shock is needed.