Sea Pines adds heart equipment to its security vehicles

January 30, 2010 

  • Anyone can use an Automated External Defibrillator without training, Town of Hilton Head Island Fire & Rescue Chief Lavarn Lucas said. "They're very easy to use," he said. "Instructions are right on the equipment." When a person has no pulse or is unconscious, an operator can attach the AED to the patient's chest. "The equipment does the work and determines if the patient has the appropriate conditions for a shock to be applied," Lucas said. It will provide a shock only to patients suffering a certain type of heart attack, he said. The S.C. Good Samaritan Law offers people some legal protection in operating AEDs, Lucas said. First responders -- fire, EMS and law enforcement officials -- are required to undergo training on the equipment and are exempt from the law, Lucas said.

Sea Pines Security vehicles soon will be outfitted with automated external defibrillators -- devices that could provide a life-saving electrical shock to certain heart attack victims, officials said.

Sea Pines is the last among the island's large communities to equip security cars with AEDs, Town of Hilton Head Island Fire & Rescue Division Chief Lavarn Lucas said.

Community Services Associates, Sea Pines' governing board, voted Tuesday to purchase eight AEDs for its six patrol cars and two off-road vehicles, CSA executive vice president Cary Kelley said.

The devices cost about $2,500 each, Lucas said.

Hilton Head Fire & Rescue began encouraging security companies to carry AEDs about five years ago, Lucas said.

Hilton Head Plantation, Indigo Run, Long Cove Club, Palmetto Dunes Resort, Palmetto Hall, Port Royal Plantation, Shipyard Plantation and Wexford Plantation all have had AEDs in patrol cars for the past several years, he said.

It's important for neighborhood patrol cars to be equipped with AEDs because security officers sometimes arrive on the scene before ambulances, he said.

Cardiac arrest patients begin to suffer irreversible brain damage if oxygen doesn't get to the brain within four to six minutes, according to studies conducted by the American Heart Association.

"If an AED can be applied before four minutes, there is an excellent chance of no long-term effects," Lucas said.

Between four and six minutes, the chance of resuscitating the patient is good, but there's a possibility of irreversible brain damage, Lucas said.

After six minutes, the chance of resuscitating the patient declines and the chance of permanent brain damage increases, he said

Hilton Head Fire & Rescue's average response time to get to cardiac arrest calls last year was five minutes, five seconds, Lucas said.

"No matter how good your response times may be, the public always beats us there," he said. "If we get AEDs throughout the community, we stand a better chance of saving those patients."

AEDs are useful only for a certain types of heart attacks, referred to as "shockable rhythm" cases.

In 2009, Hilton Head Fire & Rescue responded to 32 cardiac arrests. Of those, 10 were shockable rhythm patients that could have benefited from the use of an AED, Lucas said.

The chief acknowledges the devices will not be used frequently.

"They're used for a very specific medical condition. ... That medical condition is about as life-ending as any could be. It's the seriousness of the situation that warrants their use in communities, not the volume," he said. "If you use it, it's a patient that is fixing to die."

Not everyone was convinced Sea Pines patrol cars should be equipped with the device, Kelley said. Tuesday's vote was not unanimous, he said.

"The bottom line is we are not EMS," he said.

Sea Pines Security Director George Breed said the AEDs would be "just one other tool."

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