Though not always noticed, automated external defibrillators are everywhere: in churches, golf courses, gyms, schools and homes.
The Hilton Head Island Fire & Rescue Division wants to pinpoint all AEDs in town to improve its award-winning treatment of serious heart problems.
An online registry recently launched on the division's website invites people to enter the precise location of an AED in their home or workplace, along with contact information that will become part of the division's computer-assisted dispatch.
Such information would enable a 911 call from a particular address to automatically show whether there's an AED nearby, division spokeswoman Joheida Fister said.
In addition to telling callers the device's location, dispatchers can tell people how to use the AED in an emergency, Fister said.
"The quicker the process starts, the better the outcome," she said.
An AED is a portable defibrillator designed to be used by someone without substantial medical training who is responding to a cardiac emergency, according to division public-education officer Cinda Seamon. CPR training is still helpful to those administering an AED because chest compressions also are needed. The device delivers a brief electroshock to the heart through electrodes placed on the chest to help the heart return to normal rhythm.
The division knows where some of the island's AEDs are because of a long-running program that provides free batteries and pads to those who agree to check their AEDs once a month, keep a log and have someone trained in AED and CPR on site. But there are still "a bunch more out there," Fister said.
People on the AED registry will be required to check their device once a month and report that information to the division every six months to make sure the AED remains in working condition.
Don Foxe, the owner of Beach City Fitness, runs one of the 19 businesses that participates in the division's AED exchange program. He and other members of his staff have taken the division's CPR classes, which also include some AED training. He has never had to use the one in his gym, but he considers the device "money well spent."
"When you work with the public, the potential is there," Foxe said.
The registry is a result of the division's Heart Safe Community award, which requires it to continually improve heart-attack care. The division was recognized last year by the International Association of Fire Chiefs as a "Heart Safe Community" for creative efforts to prevent and treat serious heart problems, including sudden cardiac arrest.