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Paramedic Advocates for CPR and AED Education

Paramedic Advocates for CPR and AED Education

June 14, 2020 | Last Updated: July 27, 2021

Debra shares ideas on how to improve AED awareness and access

After witnessing someone fall through the ice at a lake, Debra entered the medical field as a critical care paramedic and became a CPR/AED educator. This formative experience, combined with her father’s Sudden Cardiac Arrest survival, motivates her commitment to spreading awareness about CPR and Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs). 

At the Cardiac Arrest Survival Summit, Debra shares her thoughts on how to promote CPR/AED education.

In this video you’ll learn…

  • Why defibrillators are important
  • How a physician mapped AEDs for the local school district
  • What the role of AEDs are in youth sports


  • (00:10) Debra enters the medical field after witnessing an emergency
  • (01:27) Why AEDs are important, especially in youth sports
  • (02:26) Her thoughts on the role of CPR/AED educators
  • (03:12) Social media and AED education

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Full Transcript

Debra (00:00):

I work as a critical care paramedic and an educator for an EMS system. I got into the medical field because I was working security at a park with a large lake. Somebody fell through the lake and I realized I knew how to do everything to get the person to shore but did not know how to save a life. So that’s when I learned CPR and started becoming an educator. I noticed that people around me didn’t know how to do CPR, that these basic lifesaving skills just weren’t there in our community. So that needed to happen. I continue to do it because in 2010 my father cardiac arrested in the hospital while we were visiting my mother. And again, it’s those compressions, the early defibrillation that brought him back and he was discharged from the hospital 48 hours later. 

Debra (01:00):

During the course of what I do, I get the pleasure of seeing police officers who carry AEDs defibrillate usually before I even get there as a paramedic. And I actually have an awake, alive patient to take to the hospital. That varys, you know, but police officers as  first responders can get there five minutes after the 911  call. If we have more people with more access to an AED and be able to do CPR, we would have better outcomes when we have those sudden cardiac arrest. And in my world we have a lot of sports, so we still have kids that are arresting on courts and not getting them AED as fast as they should. Those AED should be traveling with the physicians, with the athletic trainers. Every time they travel they should have an AED. But that means that AEDs need to be affordable, easy access, easily portable. That’s not always the case in the current trend that we have right now with the AED market is that they are out there and they’re not always easy to get to. And so how do you port one around if you’re a travel team, high school team, middle school team, you know those where the money isn’t readily available in that public system? 

Debra (02:26):

Well, I think as educators we need to be out there in all of the public venues ready to give  information about how to educate yourself, perform hands-only CPR, and access to an AED. Know where your AEDs are in your community. You know? Absolutely. Over in Michigan, we actually had a physician who was dismayed by the fact that no one knew in the school where the AEDs were, and 911 dispatch also did not know in order to be able to guide. So he went  through the community and marked out on a map where all the AEDs were. Marked where they were located in a building and he gave that to the 911 dispatchers. So when an arrest happened, people knew where to go to grab the AED. Or the 911 dispatcher could say, Hey, this is where it’s located and you can go find it. 

Debra (03:12):

And with our access to cell phones these days, we should be able to have something like that flash out. You know, there should be a locator to an AED that it would flash up to say, okay, this is where your nearest AED is. So, if you’re in the building, you know where to find the AED. But I think that as educators, we need to do a much better job at advocacy out in our communities. Again, I think the education is in the media, social media, and utilizing those because so many people use them regardless whether you’re six to 68 78 everybody’s using social media of some sort and it’s ubiquitous out there easily available. So I think we can do a lot more in newsfeeds of giving out that information. Now the difference between a heart attack and a sudden cardiac arrest, that there is a difference and you can survive a heart attack and you actually can survive a sudden cardiac arrest with having those AED is immediately available.