Initiative aims to equip all police officers with AED devices

By LAURA RUMINSKI West Hawaii Today | Friday, July 28, 2023, 12:05 a.m.

The user-friendly automated external defibrillator (AED) helps to restore a person’s heart rhythm when they are struck with cardiac arrest. (Honolulu Star-Bulletin / Cindy Ellen Russell)

At Mayor Mitch Roth’s Waimea Town Hall Meeting on Tuesday, Acting Deputy Police Chief Reed Mahuna announced the initiative to put a lifesaving devise in the hands of all officers on the island.

“What we are looking to do is equip all police officers with AEDs,” said Mahuna. “What would happen is these officers would have them on and off duty and there would be an app on their phone that they could be alerted to a cardiac event anywhere they might be, whether it be at their home or wherever they are. We think it’s going to be an exciting thing and going to save lives.”

An AED (automated external defibrillator) is used to help those experiencing sudden cardiac arrest which occurs when the heart suddenly stops beating regularly. This happens when the heart’s natural electrical system doesn’t work correctly. If not treated within minutes, cardiac arrest quickly leads to death.

A person’s chance of surviving drops by 7% to 10% every minute a normal heartbeat isn’t restored. So, immediate CPR and AED use can double or triple the person’s chance of survival.

It’s a sophisticated, yet easy-to-use, medical device that can analyze the heart’s rhythm and, if necessary, deliver an electrical shock, or defibrillation, to help the heart re-establish an effective rhythm.

According to the American Red Cross, Sudden cardiac arrest is among the leading causes of death in the United States.

In fact, more than 350,000 people will suffer a cardiac arrest per year. Currently, the only way to restore a regular heart rhythm during cardiac arrest is to use an AED.

Roth said the initiative will cost approximately $1 million, however a funding source has not yet been secured.

“By providing our officers with lifesaving AEDs, we demonstrate our administration’s unwavering dedication to protecting the health and safety of our community,” said Roth.

“This initiative equips us with a powerful tool to save lives and give our residents a fighting chance. Having experienced a heart attack myself, I understand the critical importance of timely intervention, which is why we are resolute in securing funding to maintain this pivotal program in perpetuity. A program which empowers our officers to be both guardians of the law and life, forging a safer, more resilient county for all.”

With over 400 officers on the force, the impact of this lifesaving device could be significant.

“The goal here is to have all sworn officers be issued an AED device. This is so important because the survival rate of a heart attack victim on the Big Island is about 10%, and one of the biggest influencers in outcome is electricity,” said Mahuna. “Our officers are out on patrol and they are likely to be quicker to the scene than other first responders. We also hope to utilize technology that will allow off duty officers to be notified as well of a cardiac event in their area, we believe this will act as a force multiplier in getting AEDs to victims sooner and ultimately save lives.”

It's About Life!