When it comes to emergencies, police officers are the true first responders: according to a study done by the University of Miami in 2002, police arrived first on scene to over half of all EMS calls. Another study by Indiana University showed that in 1997 and 1998, when police arrived first, the time between the call and the officer using a defibrillator was six minutes, which is four minutes less than it took for an EMS when they arrived first. Because all of these LEOs carried AEDs in their cruisers, the patient’s chances of surviving improved greatly.
If your agency or department recently received funding for medical equipment, here are the most important factors to consider when purchasing AEDs:
1. Simplicity: The AED should be simple to use. Rendering aid is the primary responsibility for a peace officer on a scene but it is not a primary duty for a peace officer. It is likely that a peace officer of rendering aid would have another mission than medical aid at any given call. In the fourth of battle, simple steps and predictable outcomes are important. Simplicity is paramount.
The unit should have some sort of self assessment or check that confirms it will operate correctly when needed.
The unit should be devoid of gauges, except the type that will show information like battery life. The layout of the units should provide the user with the ability to operate its in limited visibility.
Because an AED is designed to deliver a therapeutic defibrillating shock when needed, it should warn users to stay clear of the patient, prepare for the shock cycle, communicate to the user that a shock is imminent but require the user to do something in order for the shock to be delivered. This should be something along the lines of requiring the user to press a button or throw a switch.
It should be understood that AEDs are not designed to circumvent but augment CPR and first responder training.
2. Durability: The standards for durability of an AED are similar to most other products. An AED must be able to handle being dropped from above four feet on a concrete surface, a moderate dousing from a stream of water and operating temperatures of approximately 0° to approximately 110 degrees. The pads should be preattached and their respective wires should be able to sustain the weight of the equipment from a four foot drop.
Batteries should provide an approximate six-month shelf life. Consumables like the defibrillator pads should be easily replicable.
3. Modernity: An agency’s best investment is an AED that can be upgraded as protocol for AED use changes occasionally. For example, in 2005, the American Heart Association published the “2005 Guidelines for Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation and Emergency Cardiovascular Care (ECC),” prompting the updating of many units in use.
Customer support and upgradable units is desirable. Taking a unit out of service because it is older is generally not necessary, but being able to upgrade them is a desirable feature.
Do you have any other suggestions for officers purchasing and evaluating AEDs? Please leave a comment below or email email@example.com with your feedback.
Departments can apply for 2009 ARRA "Stimulus" funding to purchase AEDs. Visit PoliceGrantsHelp to learn how.
PoliceOne columnist Lindsey Bertomen and EMS1.com columnist Dan White contributed to this report.