Better equipped patrol cars increase ability to save lives

by: TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Beaverton Police Department's Officer Tony Bastinelli receives a donated automated external defibrillator unit from Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue officials.In a heart-related medical emergency, mere seconds count.

While having rescue personnel on hand is ideal, law enforcement officers armed with automated external defibrillators can make a difference between life and death.

“They often can reach patients before we can,” said Mark Charleston, battalion chief with Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue emergency services. “If the AED is applied, and a shock is delivered to the heart — the machines are automated — there’s a greater chance of survival.”

To help their law enforcement comrades play a life-saving role, TVF&R personnel presented the Beaverton Police Department with 15 AEDs in a Tuesday afternoon ceremony in the Beaverton City Hall lobby. The defibrillators will go in the department’s patrol vehicles that don’t already have them.

The fire district upgraded its fleet of 12-lead EKG heart monitors on all emergency response units and portable AEDs from district facilities and staff vehicles last September. The agency aims to position the surplus public AEDs in optimum locations within its service area, including patrol units in King City, Sherwood, Tigard, Tualatin, West Linn, Wilsonville and Clackamas County as well as Beaverton.

Of the jurisdictions TVF&R works with, Beaverton police received the largest contingency of AEDs, which cost around $500 each.

“We had an opportunity to change out our old units with a newer model,” Charleston said, noting the infrequency of use contributes to the equipment’s longevity. “There’s still a long life ahead of them.”

Beaverton Police Chief Geoff Spalding said the donation augments the department’s existing AED collection, allowing about 75 percent of patrol cars — more than what are usually on the road at one time — to be adequately equipped.

“We had enough for our four districts at any given time,” he said. “Now just about every (active) car can have one, which increases the odds of them getting to where they need to be. In saving lives, seconds matter.”

Without intervention within four to six minutes, a cardiac arrest incident is likely to be fatal, TVF&R officials noted. For every passing minute that a cardiac patient goes without defibrillation, his or her chance of survival decreases by 10 percent.

Law enforcement officers within Washington County were dispatched to administer CPR and/or a shock with an AED on 719 cardiac-related 911 calls in 2013, according to Washington County Consolidated Communications Agency data.

“It’s all about partnerships,” Spalding said, “but at the end of the day, it’s about public safety.”

Beaverton Mayor Denny Doyle called the AED a “terrific tool” to have in the back of a patrol car.

“If they’re not saving lives, they’re preventing a lot of (cardiac) damage,” he said after the Tuesday ceremony. “The first six minutes really count. I’m so glad TVF&R made the effort to reach out to the cities to give greater capabilities to our officers.” by: TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue personnel display defibrillators they are donating to the Beaverton Police Department during a ceremony in the Beaverton City Hall lobby.

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