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FOR RELEASE: July 10, 2003
CONTACT: Pamela Williams
Office of Communications
405/271-5601

Lifesaving Defibrillator Program Announced Today

A federal grant to fund placement of automated external defibrillators throughout rural areas of the state could help save many Oklahomans suffering a sudden cardiac arrest.

State health officials, representatives from the American Heart Association and the Oklahoma Association of Regional Councils announced the new initiative at a news conference today at the Oklahoma State Department of Health.

A $231,815 grant from the Health Resources Services Administration has been used to purchase 91 automated external defibrillators (AEDs). These devices, about the size of a laptop computer, can be a lifesaver for someone suffering a sudden cardiac arrest. An AED can automatically analyze heart rhythms and deliver an electric current to the heart of a cardiac arrest victim, literally restarting a heart that has stopped beating. The key to survival is prompt defibrillation within a five-minute response time or less.

Sudden cardiac arrest is one of the leading causes of death in North America. Only 1 of 20 victims of sudden cardiac arrest survives, yet many of these victims could be saved with early CPR and early defibrillation. Even though Oklahoma ranks second in the nation for cardiovascular disease deaths, few AEDs are available in most Oklahoma communities. Emergency resources are particularly scarce in rural areas of the state.

Most AEDs are designed to be used by non-medical personnel, such as police, firefighters, sheriffs, and troopers with the Highway Patrol. Defibrillators are particularly effective if placed in 24-hour radio-dispatched mobile units that may respond to a medical emergency.

“The challenge for communities is to respond immediately with a defibrillator to every victim of sudden cardiac arrest. This is where the AED units provided through this grant can help,” said Shawn Rogers, director of the Emergency Medical Services Division of the Oklahoma State Department of Health.

Rogers said community applications are now being accepted through the 11 Councils of Government statewide for placement of the AEDs. These councils have agreed to determine within each of their areas what will be the most likely venues for successful defibrillations. They will evaluate the applications received for their area and rank them for the state health department to use to distribute the equipment. Communities have until July 20 to submit an application.

Recipients will receive training to operate the AEDs through the Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education.

For more information, contact the Emergency Medical Services Division at the Oklahoma State Department of Health at 405/271-4027.

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