BUCKHANNON — In a sudden cardiac arrest seconds count and having public access to defibrillators and widespread CPR instruction can help save lives.

This is the idea behind the HEARTSafe Initiative being developed in Buckhannon based on a national model.

Now the first community accessible AED has been placed outside the public women’s restroom at the Upshur County Courthouse on Chancery Street, according to committee chair Maria Potter. One each will be placed at Jawbone Park and at the walk trail by the public restrooms. Each of the AEDs will sound an alarm when opened and the box at the walk trail will be accessed by a code given when the caller calls 911.

Buckhannon Fire Chief J.B. Kimble brought the HEARTSafe program back to the Buckhannon Fire Department and began a committee of community members, Upshur County EMS, firefighters, Upshur County E-911 Center and St. Joseph’s Hospital representatives to create a HEARTSafe community.

Donations have been raised to fund the first three public accessible AEDs and the committee is hoping to encourage businesses and organizations to put their own AEDs outside the building where they can be accessed after hours.

“A HEARTSafe community is one where you know when you come to this town that you are safe,” she said.

And the HEARTSafe community can help provide one measure of safety when it comes to quicker access to AEDs, CPR and emergency response.

“According to the American Heart Association, for every minute that you delay defibrillation, your chance of survival decreases by 10 percent,” she said. “What people fail to realize is when someone collapse, it takes time to call 911, it takes time to dispatch. There is a small window to defibrillate. Through this, we are wanting to teach people to recognize sudden cardiac arrest, initiate CPR and get the early defibrillation.”

In medical terms, a person is having a heart attack when they have chest pain and shortness of breath.

Sudden cardiac arrest means the patient is experiencing loss of consciousness, no pulse and inadequate aspirations.

The next step will be to offer CPR classes that will be roughly one hour, teaching the basics of CPR and the use of the AED.

“We want to encourage the community to take these classes because they will play a huge role in being a HEARTSafe community,” Potter said. “Sometimes people fail to realize the delay and they could already be doing CPR. It’s so important.”

Potter said that bystanders who stop to render aid are most often covered through Good Samaritan laws.

The committee will be keeping statistics on the program as to how the AEDs are used and if they result in the Return of Spontaneous Circulation and the patient being saved.

Anyone who would like to donate to make more public access AEDs available can contact Kimble at the fire department at 304-472-2868.

It's About Life!