Churches, synagogue, mosques, temples, and other faith-based organizations are key communal gathering places for numerous religious and secular activities. These organizations can serve as important pillars of a community.
As an organization that is there to help, serve, and provide solace to others, it’s fair to assume that congregants and visitors have the expectation that the facility is prepared to keep them safe. As a result, many churches, synagogues, mosques, and temples are increasingly developing response plans for emergencies such as fires, earthquakes, and now unfortunately, violent acts.
It’s great to see faith-based organizations begin to take on the responsibility of emergency preparedness, and to ensure absolute preparedness, your church should be equally ready to respond to one of the leading causes of death in the United States: Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA).
Sudden Cardiac Arrest is when a person’s heart suddenly stops beating properly. Unless treatment is delivered immediately the person will die within minutes. How might a church or other faith-based organizations protect against SCA?
Fortunately, there is a simple and effective solution for people in SCA called an Automated External Defibrillator (AED). These devices are the only treatment for SCA, and are designed to safely deliver a life-saving defibrillationshock to a SCA victim to restart their heart into a normal rhythm.
Be a leader of safety in your community, and keep your congregants and visitors safe from SCA by equipping your church, synagogue, mosque, or temple with AEDs! Read inspiring stories where AEDs have saved lives at church.
As a church, we are obligated to serve everyone in every definition of need, including medical emergencies and life saving ways. Being prepared for every season embraces not only the faith component, but physical response as well. At every church campus, we have medical crash bags with First Aid supplies, a comprehensive Plan/Handbook, trained medical volunteers, and at least one AED in the common spaces on display for quick retrieval. It is essential to be proactive in training and maintenance of teams and equipment when it comes to life safety. We are not perfect, but operate in a way to perfect the process, and trust God with the outcome.
Forest Hill Church, Director of Facilities
To fully understand why AEDs need to be readily accessible at your faith-based organization, it’s important to first discuss the prevalence of Sudden Cardiac Arrest. SCA affects people of all ages, races, genders, as well as those that seem perfectly healthy. A few important facts about SCA include:
Research shows that over 50% of people who attend religious services at least once a week are over the age of 50, indicating that the vast majority of people at faith-based organizations are at higher risk of SCA.
Churches, synagogues, mosques, and temples are home to so much more than regularly scheduled religious services. They also host educational seminars, youth groups, summer camps, as well as life’s most joyous and somber events, weddings and funerals.
Some larger faith-based organizations also have affiliated full-time schools, and thus have sporting facilities for students such as a gym, basketball court, and other athletic fields on their campus. Numerous churches are even designated election polling locations!
With all that activity, many faith-based organizations host hundreds to thousands of people of all ages and health risk factors every week. As a large and frequent communal gathering place, these organizations need to invest in AEDs to increase the likelihood of survival in the event that anyone suffers SCA at their facilities.
Accessible AEDs are especially important for faith-based organizations that have affiliated schools and/or sports facilities on their campus since the data show that SCA occurs frequently on school campuses and people are at an increased risk for SCA while exercising.
You may be wondering, if someone goes into SCA at church, why can’t we just call 911 and wait for the first responders to arrive?
Unfortunately, if you wait for an ambulance, a victim of SCA will likely be dead. Every minute a person in SCA does not receive a life-saving shock from an AED, their survival chances decrease by 7-10%. Therefore, immediate treatment with a readily accessible AED is critical for saving their life.
Even after you call 911, the average response time of Emergency Medical Services (EMS) is between 8-12 minutes. If first responders are the first to deliver a shock to a person in SCA, their survival chances are unfortunately very low. If the person does survive, it’s likely they will no longer have proper brain function since there was no blood flowing throughout their body for an extended period of time.
That’s why studies have shown the survival chances for a person in SCA are over 60% when a publicly-available AED is used to respond to the emergency!
There’s a clear solution to saving lives from SCA. Make sure your church, synagogue, mosque, or temple is doing their part as a pillar of your community to prevent tragic, preventable loss due to SCA by placing AEDs throughout your facilities!
Learn more about why a short time-to-defibrillation is so important to save a life from SCA.
Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) is a life-threatening emergency that occurs when the heart suddenly stops beating. When a person goes into SCA, they will suddenly collapse and not respond or breathe normally. They may gasp or shake as if having a seizure. If the victim does not get help right away, they will die within minutes.
Normally, the heart beats in a coordinated pattern that is controlled by electrical impulses. These electrical signals tell the heart muscle when to contract so that it can effectively pump blood and oxygen throughout the body. During SCA, these signals become scrambled and cause an irregular heart rhythm or arrhythmia. Specifically, the heart enters what is called ventricular fibrillation or ventricular tachycardia, two deadly rhythms in which the heart is no longer able to pump blood to the brain or other vital organs.
An AED is the only treatment for a victim of Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA). The device is used to deliver a life-saving defibrillation shock to the victim to restart their heart into a normal rhythm so that the heart can start pumping blood effectively again throughout their body.
Each AED unit has its own indications for use, so be sure to check your user manual for details on how to safely use your defibrillator.
Generally speaking, when an AED is properly applied to a patient’s chest, the AED will read the patient’s heart rhythm and it will only charge and deliver a defibrillation shock if they are in Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA). If the patient is not in a “shockable” heart rhythm and they don’t require defibrillation therapy, the AED won’t deliver a shock.
As long as you follow the AED’s instructions, neither the user of the device nor the patient receiving treatment from the AED can get hurt.
Many advocates for AEDs also have a hard time convincing others that these devices are important to have available. This is mostly due to a lack of awareness, and unfortunately, what often brings awareness to the importance of the issue is someone within a community tragically dying from SCA.
So to prevent that from being your community, it may be helpful to have your colleagues read these SCA “save” stories that took place in churches. The only reason these people survived is because the churches were equipped with accessible AEDs and the staff was prepared to respond quickly. There are thousands of stories just like these!
Also, if there are any physicians (especially cardiologists) in your congregation, it’s a good idea to have them explain to your colleagues why AEDs are important to have in large communal gathering places such as faith-based organizations.
No, by law, churches and other faith-based organizations are not required to have AEDs. However, that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t!
At the absolute minimum, you should purchase one AED and ensure it is accessible at all hours to all people who are at your facility.
However, if financially feasible, it’s highly recommended that you purchase enough AEDs (and strategically place them) such that an AED is accessible within a two minute, round trip, brisk walk from anywhere within your facility.
AEDs generally cost between $1,200 – $3,000 for the upfront purchase of the device. However, it’s very important to note that the upfront purchase of the device is not the only expense that you’ll incur for each of your AED units.
Instead, you need to look at the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) for each unit when evaluating which AED model you want to purchase. This includes the cost of replacing key components of your device after they expire — such as the battery and electrode pads — to ensure your AED is ready to use in an emergency.
An AEDs TCO = upfront AED purchase price + future batteries + future electrode pads + any other supplies that might be required over a given timeframe
The simple answer is that anyone can be responsible and designated as the “AED Program Manager,” as long as they are present at your church or faith-based organization at least once per week. It may be easiest for a staff member to be accountable for the devices since they likely frequent your facility. Although, if there’s a congregant who visits your facility frequently and is passionate about supporting your AED program, then, by all means, empower them to take the lead on ensuring your organization is safe from SCA!
It’s important to note that nearly every AED model has distinct maintenance requirements. Follow the maintenance guidelines outlined by the manufacturer. Also, the maintenance of your AEDs can be made easier by purchasing a device that has built-in “connectivity” features. Learn more about why “connectivity” features are valuable to reduce the burden of maintenance for your school’s AEDs.
There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, but there are a few guidelines that you should follow when deciding where to place AEDs at your facility:
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