City wants to offer devices for use during a heart emergency

Automated external defibrillators to be located around town

BUCKHANNON — Interim city fire chief J.B. Kimble got straight to the heart of the matter at a recent Buckhannon City Council meeting.

At council’s Thursday, Feb. 1 meeting, Kimble appealed to council to vote to make Buckhannon a HEARTSafe community — a place that has the resources to cope with sudden cardiac arrest, and as a result, experiences fewer deaths than other areas.

The HEARTSafe Communities program is designed to promote survival from sudden cardiac arrest, by, among other measures, ensuring AEDs — automated external defibrillators — are stationed in prominent public locations.

“We were talking about trying to place them strategically in the city, at the Riverwalk, at Jawbone Park and public event areas for now,” Kimble said. “This goes along with the AED program [public works director] Jerry Arnold has been talking about. It is an organization, and there is a standardization about how ‘heart-safe’ your community is.”

Kimble said no agency has been able to get an accurate read on how “heart-safe” the Buckhannon-Upshur community is.

“We really don’t know where we’re at,” Kimble said. “I’m not afraid to say that because nobody’s really taken statistics in our city, in our county, on our college campus. How many sudden cardiac arrests do we have?”

According to literature Kimble distributed, HEARTSafe sets minimum criteria its communities must meet in order to achieve HEARTSafe status. These criteria are typically goals that support “the chain of survival,” such as far-reaching CPR instruction, public access to defibrillators and “aggressive” resuscitation protocols for all first responders and community hospitals, the HEARTSafe literature states.

Kimble said that in places such as Dallas, Texas, and Charlotte, N.C. — other HEARTSafe communities — “they’re having 50 to 60 percent survival rates.”

“Their fire trucks, police and EMS all respond to these sudden cardiac arrests in their communities,” Kimble said. “They’re arriving on scene within that three-, four-, five-minute range where you can save somebody, because once you get past that five minutes, the survival rate plummets, and if you do bring [the patient back], what kind of life are they going to have because they’ve been without oxygen for six minutes?”

Kimble said if Buckhannon becomes a HEARTSafe community, a concept developed in 2002, it will be the first to do so in West Virginia. In addition, a sign demarcating Buckhannon as a HEARTSafe community will be erected at entrances into city limits.

“There’s not another city that’s attempting to do this … and when you talk about [the Gateway West project, improvements that will be apparent upon taking the Main Street exit into Buckhannon], that sign right there would go at the beginning of the Gateway [West project], saying we’re a HEARTSafe community,” Kimble said.

Kimble noted the city would have to foot the bill for AEDs installed in public places, each of which costs about $1,000.

The fire department and other first responder agencies would also likely chip in by holding training in life-saving skills, such as CPR certification.

“You provide free training to the whole community, and the Buckhannon Fire Department may be able to do 40 to 60 people at a time,” Kimble said.

Mayor David McCauley observed the designation of a HEARTSafe community would complement the fire department’s efforts to earn Commission on Fire Accreditation International Certification and the police department’s efforts to achieve Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement certification.

“Would this not fit in well with our overall community emergency plan as well as serving some — at least as a [public relations] element if not as an actual element — of our police and fire accreditation efforts?”

Kimble said it would bode well for both departments’ professional accreditation applications.

Councilman CJ Rylands said he supported the idea, as it would distinguish Buckhannon from other small cities across West Virginia.

“I like the idea,” Rylands said. “It differentiates us once again as the first community in West Virginia, and the ideas of health and wellness.”

Council wasn’t able to vote on the matter at the Thursday, Feb. 1 meeting because it wasn’t on the agenda. McCauley said council would place it on the agenda for consideration at the March 1 meeting, the next time Kimble is slated to deliver his report.

“We will read your materials, and I think you can count on a favorable reaction,” the mayor said.

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