In August 2002, an employee alerted our staff nurse about a fellow employee who didn't look well. When the nurse arrived, the ill-looking employee collapsed in sudden cardiac arrest (SCA). The nurse began CPR and alerted security to call 9-1-1 and bring the automated external defibrillator (AED). After three shocks from the defibrillator, a life-sustainable heartbeat was established. Emergency personnel arrived and transported him to the hospital. After a brief hospital stay, the employee made a full recovery and returned to work.
Our preparation for this lifesaving event goes back nearly 4 years. In 2000, while waiting for a flight in the San Francisco International Airport, I noticed an AED on the wall. This triggered a memory about an article I had read in an airline magazine about AEDs. When I returned to work, I spoke with my manager about researching the possibility of placing AEDs in our corporate headquarters. He had also recently read an article about AEDs, and gave me the go-ahead to pursue this further.
A visit from the American Heart Association brought unbiased information about AEDs, including a demonstration of many different units. And contacting local medical centers and emergency medical services (EMS) helped us decide which AEDs would be compatible with what the local medical centers and EMS currently used.
About 2,000 people a day frequent our campus, including employees, visitors, contractors and building maintenance staff. We gave the American Heart Association blue prints of our facility and asked for a recommendation for the number of units and their placement. They did a thorough evaluation and recommended eight units. They also recommended the number of people we should train in CPR and AED use. We already had several people who were trained in CPR.
There was some concern about liability issues, but it was determined that use of AEDs was covered under the Good Samaritan Act. With this information, concerns faded.
With the AEDs in place, the next step was to publicize the new program and find volunteers who were interested in becoming trained on CPR and AED.
Announcements appeared in the employee newsletter and on the company intranet, with calls to anyone who wanted to volunteer to sign up for training, especially those employees already certified in CPR, those who work on volunteer emergency teams and those who had lifeguard training. In two days, 50 people were trained, including employees and security officers. We felt it was very important to train security officers since they are around when other employees might not be.
The new AED program also required some modifications in administration, including amending the company's medical unit contract to include medical direction for the AED program. The registered nurse from the medical unit oversaw all program details, including who was trained and the dates for their refresher training. The company is finding that there is no shortage of employees volunteering for training.
After our first on-campus sudden cardiac arrest event, Panasonic worked to quickly equip its other locations with AEDs. The sales representative with whom the company had originally worked was contacted, and together we set up AED programs in 24 other U.S. facilities. Now there are 50 AEDs ready to go if one of the 4,000 employees needs it, and 240 volunteers trained in CPR and AED use.
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), 13 percent of work place fatalities more than 400 per year are caused by SCA. Of these victims, OSHA estimates that 160, or 40 percent, could be saved by defibrillation within 5 minutes.
In August 2003, the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM) surveyed 400 of its members working in major corporations and businesses and found that 34 percent of those who have implemented an AED program have used their AED at least once to help save a life. The survey also showed that 66 percent of victims of SCA in the workplace were successfully revived.
Although not everyone can be saved from sudden cardiac arrest, studies show that early defibrillation can dramatically improve survival rates. Every year, SCA strikes up to 450,000 people in the United States alone. It generally takes 6 to 12 minutes for the average U.S. emergency medical services (EMS) team to arrive at the scene of a medical emergency. Survival rates from SCA decrease by about 7 percent to 10 percent every minute defibrillation is delayed.
Safe and Easy to Use
Unlike the models of defibrillators intended for use by health care professionals (and the ones seen most often on TV), AEDs are designed to allow minimally trained laypersons to respond to cardiac emergencies, particularly sudden cardiac arrest. AEDs are prescription devices about the size of a lunch box and have adhesive electrode pads that deliver brief, but powerful, electrical stimulation to the chest, interrupting the abnormal rhythm and helping to restore the heart's natural rhythm. The devices are pre-programmed with the expertise needed to analyze the heart's electrical function. They also use voice prompts and screen displays to instruct the user on how to operate the device.
AEDs are very accurate and are designed to analyze the heart's rhythm and deliver a shock only if they detect one is needed. When used properly, and with appropriate precautions, AEDs are very simple to operate and pose no risk to either the rescuer or the patient.
Nancy Chrust is senior manager of benefits and employee services for Matsushita Electric Corp. of America, the North American hub of electronics giant Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. Ltd., which is best known by its Panasonic brand name.