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With new defibrillators, Chinook residents can feel safer

 

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Call it the Olympic discount.

Gary Anderson got it when his Chinook nonprofit corporation, Blaine I Inc., purchased two automated external defibrillators for use in medical emergencies.

The defibrillators mechanisms used to electrically shock the heart muscle of people in cardiac arrest would have cost a little less than $9,000.

But Anderson hooked up with a Bozeman salesman who had some defibrillators that were used at the recent Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, as well as a Special Olympics event.

Though the equipment was barely used, the salesman knocked nearly $1,900 off the price. Anderson and his fellow Blaine I Inc. board members closed the deal with a private grant from an anonymous Montana family.

So by late June, Chinook will be one of the few police departments in Montana with defibrillator-equipped squad cars. The department has two police cars.

"They're great," Chinook Police Chief Mark Weber said. "They're so simple and full-proof to operate, it takes minimal training trying to use them."

The members of Blaine I Inc., which works to improve emergency medical services, first considered locating the defibrillators at a local nursing home, a medical clinic or even Chinook High School.

"Then we thought, Why not the police, because they're on duty?' " Anderson said.

Local volunteers operate Chinook's two ambulances, both of which are equipped with decade-old defibrillators. When they field an emergency call, volunteers drive from their homes to pick up the ambulances at the Blaine County Sheriff's Department, and then to the scene, which takes five to 10 minutes.

The Chinook police department says it can respond to any call within city limits in one minute.

"This is going to make it a lot better," said Anderson, a member of the ambulance crew. "The citizens of Chinook are going to have a lot better chance of surviving cardiac arrest."

Chinook resident Pearl Chilton, 73, fully supports the plan.

"I think it would help a lot," said Chilton, who has had two heart attacks since 1997. "The sooner the better, you know."

The risk of brain damage starts approximately four minutes after a person goes into cardiac arrest, Anderson said, and the previous response time was just too slow.

Chinook ambulance crews have saved the lives of some local residents in cardiac arrest, but "there's been a number of times when we couldn't get to the scene fast enough," Anderson said.

In the next two months, the four officers in the police department will undergo cardiopulmonary resuscitation training, and two hours of defibrillator training from the equipment's manufacturer. Every three months the officers will be re-trained to ensure that they are using the equipment correctly.

Called LIFEPAK 500s, the defibrillators are automatic, meaning they will only shock if they sense a specific rhythm in a heart. "So they're pretty much full-proof," Anderson said.

 

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