Harborstone Adds Defibrillators At All Of Its Branches

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On two separate occasions, members of Harborstone Credit Union members have gone into cardiac arrest inside one of its branches-and employees could do little more than perform CPR and hope an ambulance arrived quickly.

Now, however, employees can do more following the installation of automatic external defibrillators, or AEDs.

Alvarita Allen, Harborstone's human resources manager, noted the CU's employees are given CPR training every two years. During the 2005 training, the nurse who administered the training brought in a defibrillator, demonstrated how easy it is to use, and recommended the credit union purchase AEDs for its branches.

"The timing was just right," Allen told The Credit Union Journal. "There was an article in the Washington Credit Union League newsletter that month about a credit union in Spokane that had installed defibrillators. I called them and got information on costs, what they went through and the value of having defibrillators available. They told me it was a very positive experience."

Allen obtained the name of the manufacturer of the AEDs used by the Spokane CU and began investigating the steps necessary to place defibrillators in a public location. For example, a company cannot simply purchase an AED; it must have physician oversight-meaning a doctor must write an order.

"We paid for it, then later found out our local fire department would have done so for free, but it was not a major expense," recalled Allen. "Our fire department was very enthusiastic and said they would support us however they could. They even gave us free training because they felt it was important to have defibrillators available."

Allen encouraged CUs interested in AEDs to contact their local fire departments for training, but added, "of course, as more and more companies install AEDs, the fire department may not be able to continue to provide free training."

The total cost for purchasing and installing 12 AEDs-one in each of Harborstone's 11 branches plus one administrative office - was $15,000, including the cabinets that hold the devices. Allen said the installation was so easy the credit union did it itself.

Training Day

The AEDs are battery operated and very easy to use, Allen said. Training requires four hours, including CPR training.

"The fire department wanted to make sure everyone had updated CPR training, because it goes hand in hand with using the defibrillator. You start CPR while getting the AED ready."

If a person is in apparent cardiac distress, staff was trained to simply place the defibrillator's paddles on the victim's chest. The paddles are connected by wires to a machine that reads the heart rhythm-or lack thereof-and determines whether the person needs a shock. An automatic defibrillator can provide an electric current that restores an abnormally beating heart to a normal, potentially life-saving rhythm.

The AEDs Harborstone purchased feature an automated voice that tells the person using the machine when it is necessary to deliver a shock. If it is needed, the person pushes a button, stands back while the current is activated, then resumes CPR.

Since the installation, Harborstone has not had any cardiac-related incidents in any of its branches, which is fine with Allen. "This is something we don't want to have happen, but if it does, it is good to have something like this available."

Liability Concerns

Asked if Harborstone had any fears of litigation stemming from the incorrect use of a defibrillator, Allen said the credit union had the same question.

"I spoke with our attorney, who said there are 'Good Samaritan' laws in place that protect people from [being sued while] using CPR and/or AEDs," she said. "I'm sure we would not have installed them if there had been a liability risk."

"So far, so good. We are pleased with how everything has gone," Allen continued. "We are happy the fire department was so supportive. The AEDs are so easy to use, many companies are installing them and people are putting them into their homes. When we open a new branch, an AED will be installed."

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