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Police to get defibrillators

COVINGTON -- The Covington Police Department will get 15 defibrillators to place in police cars and at the station, with drug dealers footing the bill.

The city council approved the purchase of the defibrillators Monday night from More Medical in the amount of $18,508, to be funded through forfeited drug money. The cost includes 15 defibrillators and one training unit.

Fourteen of the defibrillators will be placed in police cars with one to remain on hand at the police station, said Police Chief Stacey Cotton. There is already one defibrillator located in the station for court services, Cotton said.

"It's something we talked about years ago. We've always had a desire to put them in police cars, but the cost was prohibitive. Now the costs have gone down and the technology has improved. It's a good opportunity to let drug dealers help save lives in Covington," Cotton said.

Automated external defibrillators, or AEDs, are computerized devices about the size of a laptop computer. They are attached to victims who are thought to be in cardiac arrest, and provide voice and visual prompts to lead rescuers through the steps of operation. AEDs analyze the victim's heart rhythm, determine if a defibrillation shock is needed, then prompt the rescuer to "clear" the victim and deliver a shock.

Councilman Chris Smith, who worked as a paramedic for nearly 20 years, pushed to get the devices in police cars.

"It's just a no-brainer. It's not going to come out of our budget. We're not having to pay for it as taxpayers. The drug dealers are paying for it," he said.

Newton EMS has offered free training for officers and Smith said he is also willing to provide training at no cost.

EMS answered almost 10,000 calls last year, Smith said, and ambulances may not be available during peak call times, which means in some cases the fire and police departments arrive first. The fire department already uses AEDs. Now the police won't have to wait for medical personnel to arrive on scene to help someone in cardiac arrest.

Councilwoman Janet Goodman questioned the city's liability in the case that someone claimed the machines were used improperly, but Smith said there's little risk.

"The machine reads the heart and diagnoses what heart rhythm the patient's in. If they're not in ventricular fibrillation, it won't defibrillate. There's no way to shock a viable person. There are so many safeguards on that machine, if there's even a question, it will not defibrillate," he said.

According to the American Heart Association, early CPR and defibrillation within the first 3 to 5 minutes after collapse can result in a greater than 50 percent survival rate for ventricular fibrillation.

"If it saves one person's life, $18,000 of drug dealers' money is nothing," said City Manager Steve Horton.