During an emergency, every minute can mean the difference between life and death. For the Gresham Police Department, this has led to a push to speed up the process of including automated external defibrillators (AEDs) in all police cruisers.
AEDs are portable electronic devices that automatically diagnose life-threatening heart ailments in patients. The devices can then be used for treatment through defibrillation, which is the application of electricity to help hearts reestablish effective rhythms.
"The fire department can get to the scene in 3 to 4 minutes, but those are crucial minutes," said Gresham Chief of Police Robin Sells. "If we can get there even a moment sooner and get the AED started, the survivability rate will go higher."
Nationally there are 300,000 sudden cardiac arrests every year, and the survival rate of those incidents is only about 8 percent. But regional examples have shown how police-operated AED devices can improve those odds.
Lake Oswego has been a big proponent of having AEDs in all police vehicles, and since implementing the devices the department has seen a survivability rate of more than 26 percent.
"We're not trying to be firefighters, but we are trying to serve the community better," Sells said. "If it's my loved one, I want the response there as soon as possible."
Sells has issued a mandate that all new police vehicles must have an AED unit included with the equipment, and at that rate all 35 vehicles in the fleet would be accommodated in about seven years. Currently six cars and seven incoming vehicles have them, though the hope is to speed up the process through possible grants and community support.
No extra training would be required, as it's covered in the department's annual first aid training, and each new device costs between $1,200 to $1,800.
Gresham Captain Claudio Grandjean and his wife had a firsthand experience with the device when somebody at their gym went into cardiac arrest. There was an AED on the wall, and it made the difference in saving the person's life.
"Even if we pay all this money for the AEDs and it only saves one person, how do you put a price on somebody's life?" Sells asked. "This would be another tool to help us better serve the community."