CHESTER – Chester’s town buildings are all equipped with Automated External Defibrillators (AED), tools meant to be a first line of defense against heart failure that anyone can successfully operate. In recent years the fire department has updated all of the machines, making sure all are of the same type, and now keeps an eye on them to make sure they’re working properly. The fire department also trains residents on their use.
While the machines in town buildings have not yet been used in an emergency capacity, those used by the fire and police departments have been. All police cruisers are outfitted with AEDs and all officers are trained on their use by certified trainers on the fire department. They’ve been integral in rescues in recent years.
An AED is a computerized medical device that can check a person’s heart rhythm, recognize whether the heart needs a shock, and advise its user on when a shock is needed.
The AED works not by “jumpstarting” the heart but by stopping a jittery heart that isn’t working properly so the organ can “reset.”
An AED should continue to be used with cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) until emergency responders show up. Basic instructions call for the AED’s pads to be placed on a bare chest, where the machine performs a patient analysis, followed by an electrical shock if needed. This shock is to be followed up by CPR.
Time is critical during a cardiac arrest, and the application of an AED before first responders can be on site can be the difference between life and death.
Fire chief Rich Antoine said it’s reassuring to know of the presence of the AEDs around town. “Statistically, the quicker you get to one of these, the higher the success rate of resuscitation is,” he said.
Use of an AED is made purposefully basic so that anyone can use it, even if that person has never seen the equipment before, explained Antoine. Each one not only has necessary pictures and diagrams but also speaks to the user, going step by step through the process. No one should be afraid of using the piece if they find themselves in a situation that calls for it.
“They all talk to you, and walk you through what you’re supposed to do,” said Antoine.
The department holds AED and CPR classes every month for anyone interested in acquiring those complementary skills. The classes are held on the first Wednesday of the month and cost $35. Call the department at 887-3878 for more information.
The department also offers its services to community groups and employees. They train the boy scouts and civic groups and every year make sure all of Chester Academy’s employees are certified in CPR and use of the AED. They also hold trainings for town employees.
In part because of the town’s AEDs, Chester has been named by the state as
a HeartSafe Community. Chester shares the distinction with just 14 other municipalities in the state.
There are four critical steps to raise survival rates from cardiac arrest, and a municipality’s ability to perform all of these steps is what the HeartSafe program looks to promote. These include: early access to emergency care (can bystanders recognize the symptoms and quickly call 9-1-1, with an Advanced Life Support (ALS) response vehicle dispatched), quick administration of CPR, early use of an AED, and delivery of Advanced Life Support by trained first responders.
Below is a list of where you can find the equipment in its bright red box:
At the municipal building there’s one just inside the foyer on the right. At the multipurpose room, it’s inside the main hallway next to the recreation director’s office.
The community center at the Wason Pond Conservation and Recreation Area has one in the kitchen.
An AED can be found in the front foyer at the post office.
Stevens Memorial Hall has one in the main entrance hallway.
An AED is in place outside the gym at Chester Academy.
And police vehicles all have them, as do appropriate fire vehicles.
The state requires all AEDs and their locations to be registered, and the 9-1-1 operator can direct a caller to the nearest one.