Six lives have been saved with New Jersey Transit Corp.’s (NJ Transit) automated external defibrillators (AEDs) since August 2006, when the agency began placing AEDs in its stations, terminals and employee facilities.
In December 2006, an NJ Transit employee was revived by two co-workers who had received AED/CPR training just days before. Within the past year, NJ Transit police officers revived a man found unconscious aboard a train stopped at a station and saved a woman who collapsed at a train station.
These life saves are the result of a program that includes installed AEDs. Covering a service area of 5,325 square miles, NJ Transit links major points in New Jersey, New York and Philadelphia and providing some 254 million passenger trips each year.
More than 2,000 NJ Transit employees have received AED/CPR training and certification, according to Frank Fittipoldi, NJ Transit’s director of Organizational Services. Trained and certified staff are stationed at all locations where AEDs are present, he adds. Since the program was implemented, “the results have been nothing but positive,” Fittipoldi states, adding that having AEDs achieves “one of our core mission objectives . . . the safety of our customers.”
Helping NJ Transit to plan and implement its AED program was LifeSavers Inc. A key aspect of program planning is determining where exactly to place the AEDs, says Bob Stickel, LifeSavers’ president. “Basically, you want to deploy them where the most people are located, such as in a train or bus terminal, and where there may be a delay in EMS response time,” for example, in an outlying work area or rural station a good distance away from a fire/EMS house.
AEDs revive victims of sudden cardiac arrest, which afflicts about 400,000 Americans each year and is among the major causes of deaths in the United States. Despite the toll this disorder takes, many myths still exist about it.
Myth 1: Sudden cardiac arrest is the same as a heart attack. Truth: They are different conditions and must be treated differently. Sudden cardiac arrest is an arrhythmia or irregular heartbeat, an “electrical” disorder, and a heart attack is caused by a blocked artery, a “plumbing” disorder.
Myth 2: You can save a sudden cardiac arrest victim with CPR alone. Truth: Only an AED can deliver defibrillating shocks that “reboot” the heart’s irregular beat and return it to normal. CPR alone cannot revive a sudden cardiac arrest victim; it can only buy time until a defibrillator delivers a lifesaving shock.
Myth 3: An AED isn’t needed in mass transit — just call EMS. Truth: An AED victim must be revived as quickly as possible — within seconds to no longer than five minutes — for the best chance of survival, and EMS usually takes longer to arrive at the scene. According to a USA Today investigative report, EMS responders usually take from six to 12 minutes to treat a sudden cardiac arrest victim. Most untreated sudden cardiac arrest victims die within 10 minutes.
AEDs Protect Organizations From Legal Liability
At Boston’s North transit station, three bystanders saved the life of a man who had suffered sudden cardiac arrest. They used an AED to revive the victim, one of the AEDs present at this and other Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) stations as a result of a lawsuit brought upon by the widow of a man who had died years earlier on the MBTA system, according to Boston area news reports. She settled her lawsuit after the MBTA agreed to improve its emergency procedures and deploy AEDs. Subsequently, the MBTA has deployed more than 100 AEDs.
Because AEDs are becoming more commonplace on transit systems and in other public areas, a court may view AED availability as a “standard of care” should a lawsuit be filed after an AED is unavailable during a sudden cardiac arrest episode. In addition, Good Samaritan laws passed in many states protect rescuers and organizations providing AEDs from legal liability if an AED fails for some reason to resuscitate a victim. There has never been a successful lawsuit made against a person or organization using an AED in good faith.