Free lifesaving device attracts limited intere

Free lifesaving device attracts limited interest
By Marcus Braziel, Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, July 21, 2004

In April, Boca Raton’s Fire-Rescue Department began offering a free
lifesaving device — the automatic external defibrillator — to
businesses, nonprofits and city government groups.

But few groups have shown interest — only six machines have been
given away.

The defibrillator is designed to revive a person who goes into cardiac
arrest. The fire-rescue department wants every Boca organization to
have one in case of an emergency. The city bought 60 unitsat a total
cost of $100,000.

Frank Correggio, the fire-rescue department’s public information
officer, said he expected this to be a slow process. “Anything that
has to do with change, people are reluctant to look into,” he said.

Correggio, who is overseeing the program, has contacted 45
organizations, including churches, health clubs, nonprofit groups and
even the Town Center Mall. He said about two-thirds of the groups that
he’s contacted are considering the free machine.

Most organizations that have rejected Correggio’s offer are concerned
with legal liability he said. Some groups think that if they attempt
to save a life, and fail, they might be sued, he said.

Correggio said that’s not true. The state’s good Samaritan act, passed
last year, protects the lay person, he said.

The act states: “Any person, including those licensed to practice
medicine, who gratuitously and in good faith render emergency care or
treatment …

shall not be held liable for any civil damages as a result of such
care or treatment, or as a result of any act or failure.”

He said when a person has entered into cardiac arrest, the heart has

“The purpose of the device is to bring the person back to life,” he

“Basically, the reviver is working from the ground up.”

City Councilman Dave Freudenberg, who brought the defibrillator idea
to the city’s attention in 1999, said about 250,000 people die from
cardiac arrest every year. About half could be saved if there were an
adequate number of defibrillators, he said.

“I think the word defibrillator is frightening to people,” Correggio

“But once they understand the concept of what’s going on and once
they’ve taken the training, it’s a no brainer.”

To get a defibrillator, organizations must send representatives to a
four-hour training class. Attendees will learn about the machine, how
to properly use it and other survival methods such as CPR, which go
along with using the defibrillator.

Correggio said the number of people trained per organization is solely
up to the group. But, he said, it’s to the group’s advantage to train
several people.

The organization also is responsible for keeping track of those who
have been trained. If all trained users leave the group, the
defibrillator can’t be used, Correggio said.

Once the group has received its unit, it must be mounted in a visible
area for easy access. Also, groups don’t have to worry about

Fire-rescue workers will handle the upkeep –changing the pads and

Zareh Hagopian, parish council chairman at St. David’s Armenian
Church, took a defibrillator training class June 26. Hagopian said he
was intimidated at first, but after 15 minutes, he became comfortable
with the device.

“Boca made a good choice with the unit,” Hagopian said. “People who go
through the course won’t have any problems.” Hagopian plans to invite
more people at his church to the training class.

The idea could be catching on nationwide.

The federal government now is setting aside $30 million in grants for

programs in communities across the country, Freudenberg said. Although
Boca’s defibrillators are for city organizations, he said he hopes
that other cities will follow Boca’s lead.

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