Defibrillator donated to Explorers

LAWRENCEVILLE -- Instead of the usual roll call and uniform inspection, Gwinnett County Fire Department Explorer cadets were presented a brand new automated external defibrillator at Thursday's meeting.

The easy-to-use piece of life-saving equipment costs about $1,300 but was a gift from the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Association Greater Atlanta Chapter.

"This is for all of the wonderful things you do," said Lisa Williams, association chairwoman. "I wanted to donate this to an organization that would put it to good use and I can't think of a better group of young men and women."

The AED, which uses electrical therapy to re-establish a steady heart rhythm, is already a vital part of Gwinnett firefighters' arsenal against cardiac arrest.

Dr. Heather Bloom, a cardiologist at Emory University, said the chance of surviving sudden cardiac arrest while not in the care of medical professionals is about seven percent. And every minute it goes untreated, that chance becomes more slim.

The key, she said, is quick action.

"Community education programs show that early intervention can increase the chance of survival by 20, 30 percent," Bloom said.

Deputy Chief Charles Wells said sudden cardiac death is the No. 1 killer of firefighters.

"We had it happen a few years ago, a firefighter died on the scene," Wells said. "Hopefully, it doesn't happen again."

Capt. Thomas Rutledge said Explorer cadets sometimes are assigned to work county and park events, and the AED will be deployed with them when they do.

"We hope they never have to use the skills we teach them, but you never know when someone will need an automatic external defibrillator," Rutledge said.