Shockingly beneficial |

Shockingly beneficial

Portable defibrillators a simple way to save lives

Brandon Johnson

When a man collapsed at a local bowling alley last month, Craig police officers were able to get his heart beating regularly again, thanks to a portable defibrillator.

The device sent an electrical shock to the man’s heart that got it beating again so emergency crews could take him to the hospital.

Local law enforcement officials have been carrying the devices, called automated external defibrillators, for the past three years. But the bowling alley incident last month was the first time local officers actually used one to shock someone’s heart back to beating.

Officers carry the briefcase-size devices in the trunks of their cars and bring them to the scene when a person isn’t breathing, Sgt. Bill Leonard said.

When officers attach the defibrillators to a person’s torso, the machine tells them whether the person needs to be shocked.

Officers attach the devices to someone on average six to 10 times per year, Leonard said. But before the bowling alley incident, the machines always told officers a shock wasn’t necessary, Leonard said.

When Sgt. Marvin Cameron attached the machine to the man at the bowling alley, officers were surprised when it told them to administer a shock, Leonard said.

“They were totally shocked when it said ‘shock,'” he said.

The devices cost about $1,400 apiece. Thanks to grants and donations, the police department has nine of them, and the Moffat County Sheriff’s Office has them in every vehicle.

The goal is to someday have the devices in every law enforcement vehicle in the county, Leonard said.

One of the biggest benefits of the defibrillators, Leonard said, is that the devices are easy to use.

If the machine detects a heartbeat that could be stabilized with an electrical shock, it tells the officer to administer the shock. If there isn’t a heartbeat that would benefit from the shock, the machine tells the officer to administer CPR.

“It’s what we call ‘cop simple,’ that’s why we like it,” Leonard said.

Police officers are regularly the first emergency responders on the scene, so having the ability to stabilize people before the ambulance arrives can save lives, Leonard said.

“Three to five minutes could make a life-saving difference,” he said.

For the Sheriff’s Office, which is responsible for Moffat County’s 4,700 square miles, the devices are particularly beneficial, Sheriff’s Cpl. Courtland Folks said.

“A lot of our calls are in the rural areas, where it takes the ambulance a while to get to,” he said.

Although Folks hasn’t had to use his defibrillator, he said he is glad to have one in his truck.

Brandon Johansson can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 213, or

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