A Brief History of Heart Safe La Plata

Heart Safe La Plata was started in 2003 by four local EMTs who recognized that our rural area would benefit from the placement of AEDs in places where many people congregate. Our goal is to develop a system to ensure that a defibrillator reaches a victim of sudden cardiac arrest within minutes of collapse. The strategy for completion of that goal is to develop a network of businesses and community meeting places where the AEDs are placed and the personnel who work in those businesses are trained to quickly intervene in case a cardiac arrest occurs in or near their business. We set a goal of ensuring business commitment by requiring a partial donation to cover one-half the cost of each AED placement (referred to as our buy-in funding). With the aid of a Health and Human Resources Administration grant, we placed AEDs in government buildings, retail shops, doctor's offices, churches, schools, Indian casinos, and law enforcement vehicles.

Dr. David Hughes is our Medical Director and oversees the program. We maintain records of placement locations, response locations, AED maintenance, and AED use. Our coverage area includes all of La Plata and San Juan counties in Southwestern Colorado.

We have started a Community CPR/AED Training Program, hired a Program Coordinator, and have become self-sustaining. Through our training program, we promote the placements of AEDs and communicate their existence to members of the community. We have formed a partnership with the largest local fire department to provide their ongoing CPR, AED, and First Aid training.

Finally, we have linked our Public Access Defibrillation Program to our Interagency Emergency Communications Center. Through the Community AED Registry and the AED Link software a list of responders is contacted automatically.Whenever there is a cardiac 911 call and an AED is nearby, telephone calls are issued to all the registered responders at our AED placement location asking them to have a trained responder take the AED to the location of the cardiac call

The implementation of our program is straightforward:
1. Identify a location, place the AED, and secure their commitment by requiring they pay one-half the cost of the AED.
2. Document their responders in our database and supply this information to the Community AED Reigstry.
3. Train the users at that location in CPR and AED protocols. Some sites were even trained in First Aid.
4. Train members of the general community in CPR and AED protocols.
5. Keep maintenance records of the AEDs so that we know they are in working order.
6. Document AED uses in our database.

We approached the La Plata County Emergency Medical Service Council to lead our efforts. The Council oversees countywide EMS activities for La Plata County. Many agencies make up the EMS Council including Durango Fire and Rescue Authority, Mercy Medical Center, Durango Mountain Resort, La Plata County Search & Rescue, Ignacio Volunteer Emergency Services, Los Piños Fire District, Fort Lewis Mesa Fire District, and Upper Pine Fire District. These organizations, together with the San Juan County agencies, are assisting us with identifying locations within their areas for AED placements. This community-wide input provides for adequate coverage for all areas.

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