Let’s put AEDs in Police CarsJune 11, 2015
Today, in the House of Commons, I explained how we could save hundreds of lives, simply by putting defibrillators into police cars. I was making a one-minute statement known as an “SO 31” (because such statements are authorized by Standing Order 31).
For over a decade, there has been an Automated External Defibrillator (an AED) in the trunk of every cruiser of the Ottawa Police Services—145 in total. In 2012, this resulted in nine successful saves of heart attack victims. In 2013, eight lives were saved.
That’s an average of one life saved, per every 17 AEDs, annually. AEDs, purchased in bulk, cost less than $1,000.
So it would cost less than $5 million to place an AED in every one of the 5,600 RCMP cruisers in Canada. It would cost less than $4 million to place an AED in every one of the 4,000 cruisers of the Ontario and Quebec police forces.
Now let’s do some math. At one life saved, per 17 AEDs, these 9,000 units could save over 500 lives each year.
An AED lasts ten years. So, for an expenditure of $10 million, we could save 5,000 lives over the next ten years, at a cost of $2,000 per life saved.
Saving a life has never, ever, been so cheap. Let’s get to work.
“For real?”, you might ask. Two thousand dollars to save a life? It seems too good to be true, but for once, it really isn’t. The experience of the Ottawa Police Service has been replicated by the New York and New Jersey state police departments, and many others besides.
What’s going on is very simple to understand: When there’s a 911 call, the police are frequently dispatched, along with the ambulance and the fire department. Sometimes—as much by good luck as by good planning—a police car happens to be closer at hand than the paramedic, when the call comes in. Cop cars are, after all, always cruising the neighbourhood, and therefore are often just closer than any stationary emergency response vehicle. So sometimes a police cruiser can get to the scene three or four minutes before the paramedics or the fire department arrive. When someone has had a cardiac event that requires intervention with an AED, three or four minutes is an enormous span of time, and regularly represents the margin between life and death.
Way back in 2001, I started the project of putting AEDs into public arenas, halls, etc, throughout the area that I represent in the House of Commons. The initiative was useful, and I’m really happy to see that many others have since done the same thing. There are AEDs in shopping malls, curling rinks, and so on. But the number of spots where static AEDs will help, that have not yet been covered, has diminished substantially. So now the big opportunities lie with increasing the number of mobile AEDs, and the police are, by a wide margin, the best option for us to use. Life really is cheap, and will stay that way, until we take advantage of this particular investment in public health, and put these tools in the hands of our police men and women.
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