Dixie Medical
Automatic External Defibrillators, like this one, have been used by Dunwoody Police officers to save lives. A group of Brookhaven residents is raising money to buy AEDs for the city’s police cars.

When medical emergencies happen, sometimes it’s a police officer who responds first. So, many police cars are now equipped with Automatic External Defibrillators, which officers can use to resuscitate a person who’s gone into cardiac arrest.

“They’re already out patrolling the neighborhoods. A lot of the times, they’re in the area closer, and able to be on the scene faster than an ambulance and EMS,” said Brookhaven Police Lt. Brandon Gurley.

Brookhaven is hoping to put AEDs into each of its police cars. A group called the Friends of Brookhaven is working to raise $65,000 to buy the units in time for the city’s first birthday Dec. 17.

“This was one of the first things we discussed in our equipment needs, eventually being able to purchase AEDs for all patrol cars,” Gurley said of the department, which officially came online July 31. “Having Friends of Brookhaven step in to minimize costs for the city has been outstanding,” Gurley said.

Brookhaven’s neighboring cities, Dunwoody and Sandy Springs, already have their police cars equipped with the units.

Bob Lundsten, chief of staff for DeKalb County Commissioner Elaine Boyer, has helped organize the efforts to bring AEDs to the police departments in Dunwoody and Brookhaven.

“Eleven years ago, my wife suffered a sudden cardiac arrest and there were no AEDs available. It took the paramedics and emergency personnel 47 minutes to restore a normal heart beat,” Lundsten said. “The lives of my daughters were changed forever. Had there been an AED on site, her quality of life would be dramatically different today.”

Gurley said when someone suffers a heart attack, every second counts. “Statistics show the first five minutes being a crucial time to begin applying an AED to an individual’s chest to apply shocks and put the heart back in rhythm,” Gurley said.

For every minute that someone’s heart does not beat on its own, the chance of recovery declines by 10 percent, Lundsten said.

“I think we have three saves by the use of AEDs and we’ve deployed them multiple other times,” said Dunwoody Officer Tim Fecht. “The fact that we’ve had three saves, that justifies the budget any day in my opinion.”

Lundsten said he wants Brookhaven officers to be prepared, too.

“First responder programs have saved lives in the city of Chamblee and the city of Dunwoody where their police departments have AEDs in all police vehicles. AEDs will save lives in Brookhaven as well,” Lundsten said.

Sandy Springs police Capt. Steve Rose said along with first aid kits, AEDs allow police cars to be effective first responder vehicles.

‘They’re a good tool. I don’t even know what the expense is, but it’s money well spent. All you have to do is intercept one victim that’s going into cardiac arrest and bring them back and it’s paid for itself twofold,” Rose said.

Gurley said AEDs are simple to use. “AEDs are designed to be used by individuals with no training to use them,” Gurley said. “It analyzes the patient’s heart. If it’s beating the way it should be, it will not send a shock.”

Rose said officers encounter all sorts of situations where they need to step in, like drug overdoses, choking victims and injuries from traffic accidents. “You just drive up on stuff all the time,” Rose said.

He said when the Sandy Springs department was created, officers decided they wanted to purchase AEDs for the cars.

“We were putting together a department, and part of that process was ‘what do we want in a patrol car?’” Rose said. “AEDs were right along with that first line of what we wanted in the cars. It was a priority.”

Friends of Brookhaven are still looking for donations to meet their goal by Dec. 17. To donate, go to www.friendsofbrookhaven.com.