When a dad clutches his chest and calls for help, the nervous fingers of a daughter punch “911.” The ambulance is on its way.
But it’s frequently not the paramedics who get there first. No, it’s the First Responder, who hears the call on his or her radio, then rushes to the scene.
Frank Edwards, Madison County First Responder associate director, wants the 52 men and women who serve as first responders in the county to be equipped with the best tools possible to save lives.
And one of the best tools available in cardiac cases is the automated external defibrillator (AED), a portable electronic device that automatically diagnoses potentially life-threatening cardiac arrhythmias and is able to treat them through defibrillation, allowing the heart to re-establish an effective rhythm.
“I can name two occasions where we were able to bring somebody back with an AED,” said Edwards of First Responders in Hull.
Responders in Hull got a federal grant about a decade ago for nine AEDs. Now, 10 more AEDs will be deployed in the rest of the county, thanks to a grant from local residents.
“It’s an anonymous grant from a Madison County couple,” said Edwards. “That’s all I can say.”
Edwards said the anonymous donors are hoping others in the community will also pitch in with money for the life-saving equipment. The 10 AEDs, which cost a total of approximately $13,000, will be distributed to the most active First Responders in areas outside of Hull. An AED is also being placed in the county senior center on Hwy. 98.
Edwards said Hull was fortunate to have AEDs through the grant over the past decade, adding that more lives could have been saved if the equipment had been available countywide.
“If we could multiply that (the lives saved in Hull) by the other areas in the county, that could be 22 more people walking around today,” said Edwards. “These things (AEDs) are really good.”
The First Responders operate on a shoe-string budget of less than $3,000 annually. The responders are all volunteers. Most of them are also volunteer firefighters, who get their pagers, radio equipment and carry bag through their local fire departments. Edwards said some people who aren’t involved in local fire departments are interested in becoming First Responders, but they are often discouraged by the price of the pagers and radio equipment, which is nearly $1,000 for individuals not affiliated with the fire departments.
First Responders must take an initial 60-hour Red Cross emergency response class to become certified, followed by a yearly 12-hour course. The money in the First Responder budget is used primarily for minor medical supplies, training and the costs of books, which are $80 apiece.
Edwards said there’s really no money budgeted for bigger-ticket items, such as AEDs that can help save lives. He said he eventually hopes to equip each First Responder with a pulse oximeter that monitors the oxygen saturation of a patient’s blood. This is a valuable diagnostic tool for responders. The cost of these is in the $200 range.
Any individual, church or civic group interested in helping purchase such items, or in learning more about the First Responder program, can contact Edwards at 706-540-6543.