MASON CITY, Iowa - They are nothing short of life saving.
Defibrillators are capable of...well, jump starting a heart.
While EMS services carry them in their vehicles, some members of law enforcement do not. But that's changing, as Cerro Gordo County Sheriff Kevin Pals wants to add the life saving technology to the department's fleet of cruisers.
He remembers when defibrillators first became accessible, and more prevalent, to law enforcement and the public.
"When the Sheriff's office was in the Courthouse, we got them for the jail and the Courthouse building. They were more expensive back then, but they're cheaper now."
As more EMTs were routinely called to respond to medical emergencies, and that they would typically arrive to an emergency faster and sooner than a deputy, the need to carry them in squad cars decreased. Currently, the Sheriff's office does have defibrillators inside their headquarters, and staff is trained to use them.
To add them in vehicles, however, there are challenges inherent in taking care of defibrillators.
"In order to carry a defibrillator, there's a low temperature and high temperature for operating. It would require the staff to take the defibrillator in and out of the vehicle everyday they work."
The rules about such practices aren't firm.
"We don't have anything in our policies and procedures that would make that happen."
The Sheriff's office is asking county supervisors to consider the purchase of defibrillators, so setting up best practices for their use will be important.
"I do think there was a huge push and there still is a huge push to put defibrillators for public use."
Mason City's Roger Schlitter works with farmers regularly, and sees the idea as a positive one, particularly in rural areas,
"Because deputies tend to be on patrol, in the country, they know the roads. They know how to get to places quickly. Very good odds that they would beat EMS to a lot of rural calls."
Especially when time is crucial.
"If an ambulance is in the middle of town, if it's got to go somewhere 10 miles north, it's probably going take them 20-25 minutes to get there."
According to the Institute of Medicine, when cardiac arrest occurs outside of a hospital setting, there is a mere 6% survival rate. In addition, cardiac arrest is the third leading cause of death in the U.S. behind cancer and heart disease.
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