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AEDs Save Lives, But Only If You Maintain Them

Kathy Margiasso, fitness director at Mount Kisco (N.Y.) Athletic Club, joined a really special club last week when she saved a 64-year-old member's life with an automated external defibrillator. Told that the member (whose name was withheld) had fallen off a treadmill and was unconscious, she told the club manager to call 911, grabbed the AED, shocked the victim and, with the help of personal trainer Val Yasovic, performed CPR until EMTs arrived. According to First Aid Corps, the member was stabilized at a nearby hospital and underwent double bypass surgery the following day.

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Such scenes have become more commonplace as warning that the purchase of a defibrillator is only the starting point. City Comptroller John Liu's audit of a dozen randomly selected recreation centers found that (according to silive.com) all had an AED on site, yet the devices were not regularly inspected or maintained, not properly identified with signs and did not have critical supplies (backup batteries, gloves, masks or separate child and adult defibrillation pads) needed to use them properly. Nor did the centers inspected have adequate, site-specific response plans for their use or, in some cases, a trained first responder on staff.

The Staten Island Parks Department, which currently has AEDs in 73 city parks, will now perform daily checks of AEDs, as well as more-thorough monthly inspections. In addition, the department will create standard operating procedures for its AED program, including conducting regular drills to improve response times and maintaining a master list of employees trained in AED use.

The key phrase is "AED program." As Paul Samide, a partner and national sales manager with AED distributor VitalTen, told AB back in 2005, "Obviously, you can't just buy an AED; you have to have the whole program in place. You have to tell people how to use it correctly, how to maintain it. It's been estimated that half of AEDs five years or older have expired batteries or pads and you have to practice your scenario. You're going to get used to having a dead person on the floor without practicing? I don't think so."

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