Woodburn Police Chief Jim Ferraris wants more Woodburn residents to survive sudden cardiac arrest. That's why he's working to equip more of the department's patrol cars with Automated External Defibrillators, or AEDs.
Ferraris said it's not an uncommon occurrence for his officers to respond to medical calls. And, sometimes, that means they have to administer cardiopulmonary resuscitation, or CPR.
"Oftentimes they find themselves arriving just before or just about the time the medics arrive," Ferraris said. "And when I started to look at cardiac calls, or calls that might involve CPR, I found a fair number."
CPR is no doubt a lifesaver. But Ferraris thinks the department would be much better equipped to save the lives of community members with the help of AEDs.
"My officers have, in the time I've been here, responded to many, many calls for service where they've actually given CPR to a victim. Some have survived, some have not survived, unfortunately. I want to change those numbers up. I want more people to survive," Ferraris said. "I have to suspect that an AED would have helped."
More than 350,000 out-of-hospital incidences of sudden cardiac arrest occurred in 2016, with only 12 percent of victims surviving, according to the American Heart Association.
While those with heart disease are at a higher risk, sudden cardiac arrest can happen in people who appear healthy and have no heart disease or other risk factors, according to the National Institute of Health's National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. And, if not treated in minutes, the condition usually results in death.
"One just doesn't know when a cardiac arrest could strike. It could strike at a younger age and an older age, it could strike men and women. You just don't know," Ferraris said. "It's all about preparedness."
According to the American Red Cross, improved training and access to AEDs could save 50,000 lives each year. And, according to the American Heart Association, communities with comprehensive AED programs that include CPR and AED training for rescuers have achieved survival rates of nearly 40 percent for cardiac arrest victims.
While the life-saving benefits of AEDs are easily proven, the problem is that they're expensive, costing about $1,000 per unit, including the cost of installation.
While some police departments in Oregon, including the Salem Police Department and the Lake Oswego Police Department, have AEDs in every patrol car, the Woodburn Police Department hasn't had the funding to make that possible.
Recently, the department was able to acquire three AEDs through the renewal of the leases for three of those patrol cars. The new leases included the provision of AEDs in the vehicles.
But because of the way the department's lease cycle works, it would take years for the department to equip all of the cars through that process. And the department doesn't have the budget to pay upfront for the cost of equipping all 20 patrol cars with AEDs.
The department looked for other sources of funding, like grants, but the applications weren't successful.
Pamplin Media Group has begun a campaign of raising awareness about cardiac arrest and AEDs, partnering with local community organizations like Woodburn Proud to raise money for the life-saving equipment.
"I'm thrilled that the Independent and Woodburn Proud want to take this on as a project to help raise funds so we can equip our officers with it," Ferraris said. "I think that says a lot about our community. People want to pitch in and raise funds for things that would assist us in doing our jobs and serving this community better."