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Police – Our Nation’s Fastest, Most Underutilized First Responders in Out of Hospital Cardiac Arrest

Police and AEDs

The following article is a guest authored by our partner and friend Brandon Griffith, Sheriff’s Deputy for Pinal County Sheriff’s office in Arizona and a Sudden Cardiac Arrest survivor. In this piece, Brandon writes about the intersection of police and AEDs and argues that law enforcement remains the most underutilized component in the chain of survival. Read on to discover how equipping police officers with AEDs can make a huge difference in cardiac arrest outcomes.

Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) is a medical emergency which usually results from an electrical malfunction in the heart, which disrupts the blood flow to the brain, lungs, and vital organs. Loss of consciousness and a cessation of breathing results from the abrupt loss of heart function. Despite common misunderstandings, cardiac arrest is not a heart attack. Myocardial infarctions (heart attacks) occur when a blocked artery prevents oxygen-rich blood flow to a section of the heart.

Heart disease is the global leading cause of death, taking the lives of approximately 17 million people each year. Cardiac arrest, with its sudden onset and limited window for emergency medical intervention, is particularly deadly with only 1 out of 9 people surviving an out-of-hospital incident. Bystanders and first responders have little time to provide CPR/CCR and shock therapy from a defibrillator before a patient sustains irreversible brain damage or is unable to be resuscitated.

The only effective treatment for out of hospital cardiac arrest (OHCA) is CPR/CCR and shock therapy known as “defibrillation” from an “AED” (Automated External Defibrillator), administered as quickly as possible. The American Heart Association reports that for every minute a person is in cardiac arrest, their chance of successful resuscitation decreases by 7%-10%. With cardiac arrest, every second counts. Defibrillation within the first 1-5 minutes has the highest probability of resuscitation.

What Do Cops Have to Do With Out of Hospital Cardiac Arrest?

“Law enforcement is the single most underutilized component in the chain of survival despite being uniquely positioned to make incredible impacts on out-of-hospital sudden cardiac arrest incidents.”

Police are our nation’s fastest first responders. Law enforcement’s faster response times give an upper hand on managing time-sensitive medical emergencies like SCA, life-threatening bleeding, and drug overdoses.

Unlike Fire/EMS crews who respond from a fixed location, law enforcement is decentralized. Entire squads of police officers are patrolling their communities in their jurisdictions at any given moment. This allows officers to rapidly respond to calls for service. Unlike fire/EMS crews, police officers can leave non-priority calls (for example barking dog calls or civil matters) to respond to more urgent emergencies. Fire/EMS personnel have advocate response and must stay with their patients until they get equal or better medical assistance.

Access to AEDs is Key in Enabling Police to Help in Cases of Out of Hospital Cardiac Arrest

Police and AEDs, officer uses Avive Connect AED in CPR training.

Defibrillation from an AED within the first 1-5 minutes (the electrical phase) can result in up to 70%-88% successful resuscitation rate. Municipal agencies tend to respond within 1-4 ½ minutes to their priority 1 calls for service, uniquely positioning them to successfully resuscitate patients suffering from SCA.

Four out of five SCA incidents happen in the home. Most of the population is not equipped with an AED in their residence (Avive seeks to change this), and officers frequently patrol the neighborhoods of their communities, giving them the advantage to use their life-saving training and issued AEDs in situations of SCA in the home. Law enforcement consists of calm, trained professionals who thrive under pressure. Police have a tendency to not hesitate to act when it comes to saving lives.

The Increased Risk of Heart Disease in Law Enforcement

2014 study conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health found police officers in the United States are at a 70 times higher risk of sudden cardiac death. Law enforcement is 25 times more likely to die from heart disease than violent encounters with a suspect. Police officers’ life expectancy has been found to be 15-20 years less than the public we serve. Multiple factors contribute to law enforcement’s increased risk of heart disease including overactive endocrine systems, sleep deprivation, caffeine addiction, diet, excess alcohol consumption, working conditions, lack of physical training, dehydration, trauma, and administrative stress.

It’s imperative that law enforcement is equipped with AEDs not only to respond to calls for service and save members of the community, but to save each other when we suffer cardiac emergencies. Our nation needs the incredible men and women serving in law enforcement who make monumental impacts each day. We need to ensure law enforcement is best protected with our increased rates of heart disease.

Police officers using the Avive Connect AED for CPR training.

Avive Solutions’ Approach to Law Enforcement Resuscitation

Law enforcement is inundated with expectations, specialities, and services. Police must be guardians, counselors, de-escalation practitioners, legal experts, investigators, interviewers, testifiers, rescuers, writers, self initiators, community role models, tacticians, communicators, emergency medical providers, and so much more. When organizations go above and beyond to assist law enforcement, it makes it easier for us to complete our duties and better serve the public. Avive Solutions’ approach will assist law enforcement in providing emergency resuscitation to our community members.

At just 2.1 lbs, Avive’s smaller, lighter, and portable AED makes it more likely for officers to carry it into emergencies in a go-bag or their uniform pants pockets. 

Avive’s RealConnect™ Platform uses daily remote monitoring and quick notifications  to provide AED managers complete visibility into their fleet of devices, and will streamline AED program management for law enforcement administrations. With cellular, WiFi, Bluetooth and GPS connectivity, law enforcement will no longer have to conduct manual inspections, physical downloads post incident, or need to be connected to the agency’s WiFi for program management. What’s more is that The Avive Connect AED’s™ Incident Reporting feature allows for the rapid transfer of AED Incident Data to first responders and physicians to support patient care. AED incident data is easily accessible on the Avive Connect AED through a QR code that displays after a rescue. Responders can scan the code to access summary incident data, and a full Incident Report can be downloaded by the first responders, the emergency department that receives the patient, and the cardiologist that determines the future care for the patient. 

The EverCharge Battery™ makes expensive and time-consuming battery pack replacements a thing of the past. With its QuickRescue™, when the Avive Connect AEDs’ pads are applied to the patient, a notification can be sent to the appropriate 911 call center, offering the AED’s GPS location and other valuable data from the AED, decreasing time to officers being dispatched to cardiac emergencies. 

The universal adult/pediatric electrode pads make it so officers don’t have to switch between two sets of pads or take additional steps beyond pressing a button. 

The Avive AED Training cartridge allows law enforcement to quickly and easily plug in a set of pads to their real AED devices and use them in training instead of purchasing additional costly “trainer AEDs” and equipment.

As an active deputy sheriff and out-of-hospital Sudden Cardiac Arrest survivor, I am eager to see how Avive Solutions’ approach will impact survival through law enforcement resuscitation.

If you’re interested in hearing Brandon speak about the intersection of law enforcement and SCA, download the First Responders Network App on your smartphone and search for an episode titled, “Brandon Griffith & Tim Freund.” At the AXON Accelerate 2023 law enforcement technology conference, Brandon and his colleague Tim Freund were interviewed on the subject. As a fierce Avive advocate, Brandon spoke on the Avive Solution to this issue in the final minutes of the video. Give it a watch on the link above!

About the Author

Brandon Griffith is the Founder & CEO of Griffith Blue Heart 501.c(3) Nonprofit which specializes in preparing, training, and equipping law enforcement for time-sensitive medical emergencies, like Sudden Cardiac Arrest, drug overdoses, and life-threatening bleeding.

Brandon is a Sheriff’s Deputy for Pinal County Sheriff’s Office in Arizona, a multi-disciplined instructor, former EMT, and an out-of-hospital Sudden Cardiac Arrest survivor.

If you’re interested in hearing Brandon speak on this issue

Brandon Griffith

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