As students with plenty of academic, extracurricular, and social responsibilities to keep oneself occupied, it is understandable that the thought of being prepared for emergency situations doesn’t even come to mind. If the average student were to be asked about what it means to be “safe” on campus, odds are they would simply refer to fire extinguishers, building evacuation, or hiding upon the strike of an earthquake.
What most likely doesn’t receive as much attention is the access to automated external defibrillators (AEDs) and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), both crucial in sudden emergencies related to major heart problems. The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute defines AED kits as “a portable device that checks the heart rhythm and can send an electric shock to the heart to try and restore a normal rhythm.”
The American Heart Association stresses the importance of heart health and implementing AED programs in their “Chain of Survival.” This five-step program is proven to be the most effective way to save someone who either had a heart attack or was in cardiac arrest. The steps begin with recognition from a bystander and immediate CPR, while someone else calls 911. If emergency medical services have not arrived yet, one should continue to administer CPR. After a few minutes of that, an AED kit can be used. Anyone who chooses to use an AED kit, whether certified or not, is protected by The Cardiac Arrest Survival Act.
According to PLNU Public Safety, there are a total of sixteen AED kits across the campus, four of which are kept in the cars of public safety officers to transport in emergency situations. All officers are certified in AED and CPR.
“In a perfect world, everyone would have AEDs but you have to think about the cost,” said San Diego Battalion Chief Lane Woolery. “You mainly put them in areas where lots of people are. What the school is banking on, in my opinion as a first responder, is that most college age students don’t normally keel over.”
AED kits on the American Heart Association website cost anywhere from $1500 to $2000. On top of the expensive cost, each kit requires both monthly and yearly inspections.
While heart attacks are rare in college students, freak accidents are more likely. Project Heartbeat stated that electrocution and powerful impacts to the chest also can cause cardiac arrest.
“The biggest two factors in survival of out-of-hospital cardiac arrest is bystander CPR and rapid access to a defibrillator (AED kit),” said Woolery. “Of all the things, those are the only ways we can prove to have successful results in an event like that.”
While there are a dozen directly-accessible AEDs across the campus, eleven of them are within locked rooms overnight, and none are located in any dormitories. Kaz Trypuc, Department of Public Safety Supervisor, is fully aware of AED access on campus and is confident in Public Safety’s plan for heart health.
“While some AED’s are locked up overnight, the idea is that they are accessible when the most students are present on campus, which they are. And all public safety vehicles carry them 24 hours a day,” said Trypuc. “We obviously hope that we never have to use one but they save lives and they give a first responder a better shot at saving a life.”
Project Heartbeat says that the recommended response time for a cardiac arrest emergency is three minutes. While this may seem unreasonable, Paramedic and Documentation Coordinator Ruth McGuire says that CPR is designed to lengthen the response time.
“Unless you can use the AED immediately, you need to do standard CPR for at least a few minutes before administering an AED,” McGuire said. “We do see more kids these days with heart problems over the years. With improvement in medical procedures, kids that, 20 years ago would’ve lived to be only a year old, are now growing with heart problems to be adults. We are aware of this.”
All Public Safety Officers are required to be both CPR and AED certified. According to Public Safety and Residential Life, RA’s are not required to be certified in CPR. Public Safety also said that while there are no AEDs located in dorms, keeping four units in cars for emergency transportation served as compensation; they also said that an AED system within the dorms is currently a work in progress.
“I do have people from time to time that inquire about training of RA’s for CPR and I think it’s a fine idea. I think a better idea is broadly offering CPR training to our student body.” said Jeff Bolster, Dean of Students and Director of Residential Life. “That way, rather than just having it be with the RA’s or other student leaders, we’ve got a really wide base of well-trained CPR students on campus who then, I think, could then respond regardless of where they’re located.”
According to CPRCertified.com, the cost of CPR certification and training has a wide range, generally from $25 to $60, although cheaper options can be found through limited-time offers. Based on their website, the American Heart Health Academy provided a special offer of $13 for CPR training until Sept. 26. McGuire said that Project Heartbeat also provides fundraisers for colleges in order to afford CPR training for students and AED kits themselves.
Heart health should be a major concern at any level in society today, especially on a campus such as PLNU’s. With city access to the ocean and First Church, there is an entirely new element with a wide variety of age ranges, not all college campuses have to consider. Making sure each student and faculty member is fully aware of AED kits and CPR can only help save a life.