When a call for emergency medical service comes into the city, it's typically a police officer - and not a paramedic - who arrives first on the scene.
And if there's an automated external defibrillator in each squad car, officers can become first responders and can quickly get the life-saving process started in cases of sudden cardiac arrest. With that in mind, former alderman Richard Bachman is launching an effort to raise about $14,000 to place an AED - a portable device that delivers an electric shock through the chest to the heart - in each of 12 police squad cars.
He and his late wife, Gloria, had intended to pursue this fundraising project a couple of years ago but he was already committed to many volunteer programs and was raising money to put flags along North Avenue. Then Gloria got sick and the AED project proved too much to take on, Bachman said. She died last fall.
"That was the one project that we didn't get done, so I want to dedicate this in her memory," he said.
A potential life-saver Bachman's push for AEDs comes at the same time a consultant hired by the city is recommending putting the devices in police vehicles.
One-third of the 1 million deaths resulting from cardiovascular disease in America each year are due to cardiac arrest, the sudden and unexpected loss of heart function, said Donald James, consultant with International City/County Management Association.
He also served as a former fire chief of Miami-Dade County Fire Department, which issued every police officer an AED more than 10 years ago.
Fire Chief Dean Redman doesn't expect to see the dramatic surge in the number of lives saved that Miami-Dade experienced. Redman said at the time the Florida community had very little in terms of emergency medical response by its fire or police departments.
Wauwatosa already has up to three paramedic units and other emergency medical personnel operating within the city.
Nevertheless, Redman said there is always a benefit from backup protec- tion. A first responder may be able to keep a person's heart beating for the few minutes until professionals can take over "Those precious couple of minutes can mean the difference between life and death," he said.
City has some AEDs A few years ago, the Fire Department had AEDs available for distribution.
Although there was talk about putting them in squad cars, they ultimately were placed in municipal buildings and 75 city workers have been trained on how to use them.
Now it looks like the police cars will get outfitted as well, and Police Chief Barry Weber is on board with the project.
"How could you not be in favor of something like this if it may save someone's life?" he said.
The Budget and Finance Committee on Tuesday unanimously approved accepting donations through the city treasurer for the AEDs.
"It's one of those wonderful nobrainer moments," Alderman Dennis McBride said.
Bachman has kicked off the fundraising effort by giving $1,000. He's also received donations from the Kiwanis and firefighters union, but he's still far from his goal.