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Some Public AEDs May Not Be Maintained Adequately

NORMAL, Ill. -- Automated external defibrillators on the walls of dozens of public buildings in McLean County may be giving people a false sense of security if the AEDs haven t been serviced in several years.

Some health officials and AED owners are concerned some of the heart rhythm-restoring devices that were placed in publicly accessible buildings several years ago have not been maintained. Thus, they question whether the devices would work if needed.

Because there is no agency in charge of monitoring AED maintenance, it is unknown how many have not been adequately serviced.

"Some places do check their AEDs. Some places do not," said Jan Berlin, an emergency medical technician who is the coordinator of the BroMenn Healthcare Training Center, Normal.

"That s why it s good having us go out (to the public buildings) to do CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) and AED training, because then we can bring the maintenance of the AED to their attention," Berlin said.

One person who maintains a publicly accessible AED and is concerned is Lisa Weber, a registered nurse who is the parish nurse of Epiphany Catholic Church, Normal.

"In the past several years, AEDs have become almost as common as fire extinguishers," with the potentially life-saving devices found at fitness centers, schools, churches, airports and golf courses, Weber said.

"The widespread distribution of AEDs gives the public reassurance that a sudden heart attack will not necessarily be fatal," Weber said.

But in recent years, local oversight of this program has changed hands and there is no agency overseeing the maintenance of AEDs, she said.

While there is no agency overseeing AEDs, there are organizations that can help.

For example, American Red Cross of the Heartland recently sent a letter to owners of publicly accessible AEDs to remind them to check their AEDs to determine if they need servicing.

"It s a good time to do this as we re getting into summer sports and activities," said Carolynne Saffer, Red Cross director of health and safety services.

Red Cross voluntarily assumed some responsibility for the community AED program when Illinois Heart & Lung Foundation transitioned out of the program in 2004.

Red Cross doesn t service AEDs because it has no one trained to do so, said Scott Vogel, director of public support.

Saffer and Berlin said that at each AED location someone should be designated to maintain the device. Weber said she checks the status light of the Epiphany AED about once a month to make sure it s green.

Check the AED - as often as recommended by the manufacturer but at least yearly - to make sure the batteries and electrode pads (which deliver the shock to restore heart rhythm) have not expired and to replace them if needed, Saffer and Berlin said. Make sure there are no external cracks or signs of other damage and make sure other supplies - such as an extra battery and extra pads - are available.

Become familiar with the AED owners manual; direct questions or problems to the AED manufacturer. Berlin is available at (309) 268-5138 to help AED owners with specific questions.

Organizations that want to buy an AED may do so through Red Cross, Vogel said. Price ranges from $1,000 to $2,500.

From fall 2001 to summer 2004, 200 AEDs were placed throughout McLean County in Operation Heartbeat, whose partners included Illinois Heart & Lung, American Heart Association, BroMenn, OSF St. Joseph Medical Center and McLean County EMS (emergency medical services). Since then, other public-access defibrillators have been placed.

A change in state law in 2007 said a person acquiring an AED no longer had to register it with the EMS hospital in the area, said Greg Scott, coordinator of the McLean County Area EMS System. However, AED owners still must notify the local 911 center that they have an AED.

Red Cross isn t sure how many times public-access AEDs have been used in McLean County. In 2006, EMS records showed that in the prior three years, public AEDs had been used seven times and three lives had been saved.

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