In a heartbeat, emergency assistance

Deputies learn to use first defibrillator in Arundel courthouse Defibrillator is placed in Arundel courthouse

July 12, 2000|By Laura Barnhardt | Laura Barnhardt,SUN STAFF

Suspending reality for a moment, Deputy Sheriff Krystal Dietrich carefully placed the shock pads on the dummy as if she were trying to revive a person who just had a heart attack right there in the Anne Arundel County Courthouse law library.

"Stand clear," she commanded one final time as she pushed the red button on the defibrillator - a small suitcase of medical technology that jump-starts the victim's heart.

It worked, said Sgt. John Plantholt after he checked the plastic patient's pulse.

More importantly, he said, it should work the next time there's a real emergency at the courthouse, where last year a title searcher and a lawyer had heart attacks.

By tomorrow, about 20 sheriff's deputies in Anne Arundel County will be trained to use the defibrillator. The device was donated by a community group in memory of Anne Arundel County Councilman Cliff R. Roop, who suffered a fatal heart attack at another county building during a council meeting in January.

The installation of automated external defibrillators is becoming more common as state, county and private agencies purchase the equipment and train employees with hopes that they'll be able to prevent the deaths of people from cardiac arrest in public places.

Fifteen people died after suffering heart attacks while visiting or working at Baltimore-Washington International Airport last year. Workers are installing several dozen defibrillators in the terminals, said Rick Grubb, an airport spokesman.

Prince George's County began installing defibrillators in courthouses and government buildings more than a year ago, officials said. They've also been installed by private companies in at least one shopping center and a local amusement park.

State officials in March installed defibrillators in state government buildings in Annapolis, including the State House and nearby state office buildings. They were also installed in the Department of General Services' police cars.

The defibrillator at the courthouse in Annapolis is the first unit to be installed in an Anne Arundel County public building.

Two others have been donated to the county by the Cliff R. Roop Cardiac Support and Education Foundation and await installation. One defibrillator will eventually be placed in the northern part of the county, said the foundation's chairman, Ken Brannon.

Another was originally donated for placement at the Arundel Center, headquarters of the county government and the building where Roop died. But the current council has delayed the installation, in part, until logistical problems, such as who should be trained to use the machines, are solved.

Eventually, the foundation hopes the defibrillators will be installed in all county public buildings and in every police car and fire truck, either through public funding or by private donations, Brannon said. "This is an ongoing effort," he said.

Anne Arundel County Fire Chief Roger C. Simonds Sr., who dropped in on the first four-hour training session yesterday at the courthouse, said he's especially pleased the defibrillator will be used at the courthouse.

"This is how we really save lives," Simonds said. "They'll be able to recognize the signs ... and know what to do until we arrive. The sooner we shock an arrested heart, the better."

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