Tech Q&A: Cindy Morton of Philips Healthcare

The use of AEDs by police officers is increasingly common

The use of Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) by police officers is happening more and more, in part because myriad office buildings have strategically pre-deployed these devices, but also because police are often the very first responders to arrive at a scene, and it is increasingly common that these life-saving devices are kept the trunks of squad cars. For example, Philips Healthcare, one of the top manufacturers of AEDs, announced in June that six more American law enforcement agencies — Milwaukee and New Berlin, Wis.; Manatee, Fla.; Bellevue and Kent, Wash.; and Dunwoody, Ga. — have purchased that company’s HeartStart FRx AEDs for their officers to use in vehicles, enabling them to assist victims of sudden cardiac arrest (SCA). To learn a little more about the latest in this important technology, we spent a little time with Cindy Morton, AED Market Manager for Philips Healthcare. Morton is responsible for the development of marketing programs for law enforcement customers.

If you have used an AED to help save the life of a person in need, we want to hear from you.  Post your comments below or send us an email

PoliceOne: What significance does the adoption of AEDs have for law enforcement and what does it mean for the rest of the industry and other emergency rescue branches?

If you have used an AED to help save the life of a person in need, we want to hear from you.  Post your comments below or send us an email. (Photo courtesy of Philips Healthcare)
If you have used an AED to help save the life of a person in need, we want to hear from you.  Post your comments below or send us an email. (Photo courtesy of Philips Healthcare)

Cindy Morton: Law enforcement officers are very often the first to respond to the scene of a medical emergency. And for victims of sudden cardiac arrest, getting immediate access to an AED is critical. Equipping patrol cars with AEDs enables officers to administer the first round of defibrillation, potentially increasing a victim’s chance of survival until EMS personnel arrive to administer further medical care.

From an industry perspective, this does not reposition law enforcement as medical providers. Officers equipped with AEDs are simply better prepared to respond to a cardiac arrest emergency when arriving to a victim before EMS. It’s really all about supporting and enhancing the chain of survival. For the best chance of survival from the most common cause of SCA, a shock from a defibrillator should be delivered within the first few minutes of collapse. For every minute that goes by without defibrillation, a cardiac arrest victim’s chance of survival decreases by about 10 percent. After 10 minutes without defibrillation, few attempts at resuscitation are successful. All rescue branches will agree that whatever can be done to get the appropriate medical care to a patient as quickly as possible makes the most sense.

P1: Can you give us a few recent examples where an AED has been used by an officer to save someone’s life?

Morton: There are many, many examples! The Bellevue, Washington Police Department had its first save within weeks of deploying Philips HeartStart FRx AEDs. A 50-year-old man was working in his yard and felt chest pain. He went into SCA just as his wife was pulling into the hospital parking lot. An on-call Bellevue police officer responded and provided a shock from his AED before medical personnel from the hospital could get mobile equipment to the man. His life was saved because this officer had an AED in his patrol car.

The city of Durham, North Carolina recently deployed Philips AEDs and within six months of deployment, the agency saved two of their own officers who experienced SCA! The first SCA incident occurred while a police officer in his 40s was directing traffic. Fellow police officers on the scene performed CPR and a shock from an AED was delivered to revive him. The officer later regained consciousness at the hospital. Two weeks later, the department was holding an academy recruit physical fitness test when a recruit in his 30s experienced SCA. After CPR and one shock from the AED, his colleagues were able to restore a pulse. The recruit academy training was being held at a remote location and EMS arrived 15 minutes after officers called 911. The AEDs deployed by the Durham Police Department saved the lives of both officers.

P1: How have these devices advanced over the past years and why is this innovation important?

Morton: The first defibrillators on the market were only intended for use by trained professionals and they were large, bulky and heavy. They were not practical for law enforcement needs by any means. The latest HeartStart AEDs are designed to be rugged, portable and easy-to-use.

P1: What makes Philips HeartStart FRx defibrillators a cut above the rest?

Morton: The Philips HeartStart FRx Defibrillator is designed with police officers in mind. The AED is rugged enough to be stored in a patrol car, yet at just 3.5 pounds, it is among the smallest and lightest defibrillators on the market. Despite its compactness, the device was designed to surpass rigorous testing requirements: jetting water, crushing loads up to 500 pounds and a one-meter drop onto concrete. The FRx features calm, clear voice instructions that are precisely timed to the responder’s actions to provide guidance every step of the way for both defibrillation and CPR coaching. It is suitable for use by law enforcement personnel because of its design and ease of use.

P1: How are law enforcement organizations driving and funding AED initiatives in their communities?

Morton: With police officers acting as first responders and delivering early defibrillation and CPR, sudden cardiac arrest survival rates can improve. Agencies across the country recognize the value of having AEDs in patrol cars to protect their citizens, as well as their fellow officers, and are initiating different programs to help fund the placement of AEDs in their community.

As a result of the two saves in Durham, N.C., the agency decided to use asset forfeiture funds to buy 16 additional devices. In Dunwoody, Ga., the husband of an SCA survivor campaigned local newspaper and TV stations to run stories publicizing “The Heart of Dunwoody,” a campaign to arm its newly formed police department with AEDs. Neighborhood associations, Boy Scout troops, local churches, and the Chamber of Commerce also pitched in. “The Heart of Dunwoody” campaign raised enough funds to purchase 47 HeartStart FRx devices.

Additional initiatives used by agencies across the country include silent auctions, re-allocation of remaining end-of-year funds, public donations, state or local financing, private funding and grants. To the police responders, survivors, and community, the investment in an AED was priceless.

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