Search on Pulse Point, a smart phone app that locates nearby public-access automated external defibrillators, and in downtown Homer locations pop up like Homer City Hall, the Homer Public Library, Public Works and the Homer Harbor Office. Google Maps shows public-access AEDs at Wells Fargo, First National Bank, Alaska USA Federal Credit Union and Paul Banks Elementary School.
In Anchor Point, population 2,000, not one dot shows up. If someone went into sudden cardiac arrest and needed public access to the life-saving machine that can help restart hearts, they would have to hope Anchor Point Emergency Services responded quickly.
Put a dot on the map.
Last week, thanks to a $43,000 Tesoro Foundation grant, the Anchor Point Senior Center on Milo Fritz Road had installed a public-access AED.
On July 5, Samantha Cunningham, Kenai Peninsula Emergency Medical Services coordinator, met with Bobby Ness, president of the senior center board of directors, to install and place a sign for the AED at the center. The small red box puts AEDs in the hands of people who might not even know cardiopulmonary resuscitation.
“This is one that’s placarded, it’s accessible and it’s designed for fools to use,” Cunningham said.
The Tesoro grant will pay for 30 AEDs to be installed in public places on the Kenai Peninsula. That grant allowed Cunningham to get a bulk discount through Enerspect Medical.
The money not only pays for the $1,250 cost of each device, but it includes funds for installation and maintenance of the AEDs.
Cunningham also volunteers as a paramedic with Kachemak Emergency Services and teaches CPR and First Aid classes. In her job as EMS coordinator, she represents and advocates for emergency services from Tyonek to Seldovia. It was in that role she heard about the Tesoro Foundation grant program at an EMS conference. She took notes and wrote up a proposal.
“They said yes, just like that,” Cunningham said.
The Tesoro Foundation provides funding, equipment and support for community organizations that increase overall safety of communities where Tesoro works. The public-access AED grant was coupled with the Loren Marshall Foundation, an Anchorage nonprofit that helps to improve outcomes from cardiac arrests through CPR training and making AEDs more available.
Anchor Point has some AEDs, like one at the Alaska State Trooper post on the Sterling Highway near Chapman School. That’s in the office, though. Cunningham said troopers don’t carry AEDs, so if they respond to an incident, they would have to go by the post and pick one up.
That doesn’t fit the criteria for public-access AEDs.
“It has to be some place where the public will come, interact and be able to use a defibrillator,” Cunningham said.
AEDs are part of three things Cunningham teaches and encourages in responding to sudden cardiac arrest: calling 911 to get help, learning to administer CPR and using an AED if necessary — and available. CPR and an AED can buy time for a patient while waiting for medics to respond.
In about 80 percent of sudden cardiac arrests, the heart doesn’t stop completely, but quivers and doesn’t pump blood. AEDs sense that erratic heart rhythm — a fibrillation — and administer an electric shock which can start a normal heart beat.
At the Anchor Point Senior Center, Cunningham met with Ness to show her the AED. Cunningham said she chose the HeartStart AED made by Philips Healthcare because it rated highest for ease of use. The AED has recorded vocal instructions to walk the user through the process: put two paddles on the chest where shown and continue. The device can sense if there’s a fibrillating heart. The AED also can give instructions for CPR if needed.
“It’s hard to mess up with this puppy,” Cunningham said.
Beyond buying and installing public-access AEDs, the Tesoro grant pays for a vital part of providing community AEDs — keeping the lights on. That’s one problem with previous programs, Cunningham said. The batteries wore out and nobody replaced them.
“You can give them out, but you have to know if it’s effective,” she said.
The Philips AED has a green light that flashes when the battery is charged. The grant pays for Cunningham or another worker to keep the AED maintained. It also pays for her to give short courses to people like Ness and other Anchor Point Senior Center volunteers and staff in how to use it. The AEDs also can get software upgrades. If the AED is used to save a life, the grant pays for someone to come provide new supplies like paddles. Support funding continues for 8 years. Cunningham said with advances in medical technology, that will probably be beyond the life of the AED.
The city of Homer and Kachemak Emergency Services have taken the lead on making AEDs publicly available in their service areas, Cunningham said. The city of Homer has AEDs in Homer Police patrol cars. Homer has two units that rotate among officers and another AED in the Homer Jail.
“I think we’re the first community in Alaska to have AEDs in police cars,” said Homer Volunteer Fire Department Chief Robert Painter.
HPD cars didn’t have AEDs in November 2003 when a Homer man, Bob Keys, had a heart attack and later died after testifying at a Homer City Council meeting. City Hall also didn’t have an AED. Painter and Dr. Paul Eneboe administered CPR to Keys, and medics responded within minutes, but were unable to save him.
“That was one of the pushing factors to put one in City Hall,” Painter said.
There now is an AED behind the city clerk’s desk in the Cowles Council Chambers.
KES Fire Chief Bob Cicciarella also pushed to get public-access AEDs. Between the two departments, there are public-access AEDs all the way to the Old Believer Russian villages at the head of Kachemak Bay.
Anchor Point will get two more public-access AEDs, one at the Anchor Point Veterans of Foreign Wars on Milo Fritz Avenue and one at The Warehouse store on the Sterling Highway. Cunningham said at least every town on the Kenai Peninsula will get a public-access AED, including the Alaska Native village of Tyonek on the west side of Cook Inlet and Hope and Sunrise at the end of the Hope Road. Areas with no AEDs like Anchor Point will get more.
The plan also is to get public-access AED locations put up on apps like PulsePoint — and put more AED dots on the map.