May 25, 2001
Volume XXXIV, No. 21



Campus police officers prepared to defibrillate

Photo of defib demonstration Robert Bratten (second from left), chief of university police, explains to Jim Kazen, executive vice president for administration, how the new defibrillators work as Sgt. Robert Austin and Joi Shumaker, assistant professor in the EMT department, look on.

Sudden cardiac arrest — the abrupt and unexpected cessation of a person's heartbeat — strikes more than 350,000 people each year in the United States and is the leading cause of death in this country.

To date, no one has died on campus from cardiac arrest, but officers are now ready for such an emergency with three new portable defibrillator units and additional training in their use. The officers have always been trained regularly in cardiopulmonary resuscitation, the skill that involves rhythmic compression of the chest and breathing into the subject's mouth. Now, they have additional training in use of the new Agilent Heartstream Automated External Defibrillator (AED) units that were added May 1 to the standard equipment in the patrol cars. The units can deliver an electric current strong enough to restart the heart or normalize a quivering rhythm.

"We purchased these state-of-the-art units in order to enhance our services and the safety of the campus," said University Police Chief Robert Bratten. "Dr. Donald Gordon in the emergency medical technology (EMT) department advised us on which units to purchase and they are identical to the ones used in emergency vehicles for the city of San Antonio." They also are similar to units being added to the safety equipment in airplanes, gambling casinos, health clubs and other businesses.

Once the units were obtained, EMT's AED coordinator Joi Shumaker trained the officers. "The units are very easy to use and they talk you through the procedure by providing both voice and written instructions," she said. The devices only weigh about 4 pounds and have built-in safeguards so that they will only deliver current if there is no pulse or if the rhythm present will not be disrupted by the outside electrical current.

According to Shumaker, EMS treated 724 cardiac arrests citywide during the year 2000. Sixty-two percent were in men and 38 percent were in women. Sixty-seven percent occurred at home.

As a reminder, please call 911 for any emergency on campus, including a person with possible cardiac arrest.