EVERGREEN, Colo. – People who live in rural Colorado communities like Evergreen know in an emergency every second counts.
That’s especially true when someone experiences cardiac arrest, which occurs when the heart stops beating.
“For every minute someone's in sudden cardiac arrest, their chance of survival decreases by 10%,” said David Montesi, the EMS division chief for Evergreen Fire Rescue.
Montesi says for paramedics at Evergreen Fire Rescue it can take 10 to 15 minutes to reach some parts of the 120 square miles they cover.
About 20 years ago, a group of paramedics realized something needed to change.
“We did a little bit of research and identified that Evergreen, with our aging population and as rural as we are, and as large of a response area is our district, that this is the perfect place for AEDs (automated external defibrillators),” said Montesi.
AEDs can restore normal heart rhythm by sending electrical shocks.
They’re designed so that anyone can use them in an emergency.
“My son's been using it since he was in fourth grade. If he's able to learn it, so is everyone else,” said Montesi.
The paramedics created their own nonprofit called, Evergreen Public Access Defibrillation (EPAD) so they could raise money to install as many AEDs in their district as possible.
“These AEDs are located throughout the community. They're at schools, they're at rec centers, they're at the performing arts centers,” said Einar Jensen, the public information officer for Evergreen Fire Rescue. “They're in centrally located places, especially out in these more rural communities or more rural neighborhoods.”
The American Heart Association says nearly 1,000 people in the U.S. suffer cardiac arrest every day, striking people when they least expect it.
The organization says 90 % of cardiac arrest incidents that occur outside a hospital setting are fatal.
But thanks to AEDs installed in the Evergreen area, at least five lives have been saved.
“It doesn't seem like a lot, but that's five lives,” said Montesi, who also serves as the president of EPAD. “Over the course of 20 years it keeps us going.”
Montesi says during an emergency dispatchers can send alerts to people who are trained to administer CPR and who live near an AED.
“The dispatcher can see who is responding with the AED to that cardiac arrest event,” said Montesi. “As you can imagine, if one of these people who lives here gets that notification and they can respond, their response time is going to be significantly quicker than that of the ambulance.”
Evergreen Fire Rescue and EPAD have installed more than 100 AEDs in their coverage area, providing more peace of mind and potentially saving more lives.
“It takes all of us working together to maximize the amount of safety that we can have,” said Einar.
Each device costs about $1,200.
But Evergreen neighborhoods and businesses interested in one only have to pick up half of that tab.
EPAD takes care of the rest.
For more information about the program, visit https://www.evergreenfirerescue.com/
You can also call 303-674-3145.