2013-09-12 / News

EMS offers monthly training in the use of defibrillators

Wilkes County EMA Director Blake Thompson demonstrates the use of an AED to the Washington Kiwanis Club. (Photo by Richard Crabbe) Wilkes County EMA Director Blake Thompson demonstrates the use of an AED to the Washington Kiwanis Club. (Photo by Richard Crabbe) Wilkes County Emergency Medical Service’s Blake Thompson brought the Washington Kiwanis up to date on the use of automatic electronic defibrillators (AEDs) at last week’s meeting.

These simple-to-use units are based on computer technology which is designed to analyze the heart rhythm itself, and then advise the user whether a shock is required. They are designed to be used by lay persons, who require little training to operate them correctly.

Wilkes EMS offers monthly training sessions on cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and the correct use of AEDs. Thompson says he has trained thousands of citizens during his years with the county emergency medical service. Classes are offered on the third Saturday of each month at EMS headquarters adjacent to the Wills Memorial Hospital.

Some areas have dedicated community first responders, volunteers who are tasked with keeping an AED and taking it to any victims in their area. It is also increasingly common to find AEDs on transports such as commercial airliners and cruise ships, as well as in schools and other public facilities.

The presence of an AED can be a particularly decisive factor in cardiac patient survival in many cases, as professional medical assistance may not be close by. AED operators should also know to phone immediately for an ambulance when sending for or using an AED, said Thompson, as the patient may be unconscious, which always requires ambulance attendance.

Thompson also pointed out the important role the Washington Fire Department and other community and volunteer departments play in emergency medical response. Currently, the Washington Fire Dept responds to about 750 calls per year with about 73% being EMS/Rescuerelated. Thompson praised the Washington department for its advanced rescue and extrication capabilities, which are critical in saving victims of serious traffic and other accidents.

Experts agree the notion of public access defibrillation (PAD) has the potential to be the single greatest advance in the treatment of outof hospital cardiac arrest since the invention of CPR. The portable defibrillator is a major medical breakthrough, pioneered in the early 1960s by Prof. Frank Pantridge in Belfast. Today portable defibrillators are among the many important tools carried by ambulances, though many units are designed for use by non-medical operators.

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