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Vaughan has the 'right tools to save a life' in emergency

Knowing how to perform CPR and close access to an AED increases likelihood of saving a life, writes Vaughan Fire Chief Deryn Rizzi
March 10, 2020
Fire Chief Deryn Rizzi

Do you have the right tools to save a life?

Imagine you are out at the arena watching the kids play hockey and you see one of the parents by the boards collapse. Everyone looks around in shock. You rush over and you can’t feel the rise and fall of the chest or a pulse. What do you do? Time is critical.

A similar event happened on Feb. 11 during an NHL game in Anaheim, Calif. Stunned hockey fans watched as St. Louis Blues’ Jay Bouwmeester collapsed on the bench after his first-period shift. The 36-year-old defenceman had a cardiac episode in which his heart suddenly stopped beating properly. Without the immediate intervention of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and the use of an automated external defibrillator (AED), he could have died.

Thanks to quick action at the rink, Bouwmeester was lucky --he survived. Many people who experience a cardiac episode outside of a hospital aren’t so fortunate. With eight out of 10 cardiac arrests happening in homes or public places, first responders know quick bystander intervention significantly improves the chance of saving a life.

After calling 911, a bystander providing CPR and using an AED can increase the likelihood of saving a person’s life by 75 per cent or more, over CPR alone. Bystanders need to be prepared to intervene and start life-saving procedures in the event of a cardiac emergency, and, to do this, they need the right tools --knowing how to perform CPR and close access to an AED.

CPR alone doesn’t restart the heart; it keeps blood and oxygen flowing to the brain until the heart receives an electric shock through defibrillation. The more readily accessible AEDs are in the community, the greater potential for positive outcomes to these tragic events.

The City of Vaughan takes seriously the health and safety of those who live, work, play and learn in our city. Vaughan is committed to fostering a safe environment for the public and staff to help them respond quickly and efficiently to cardiac emergencies. There are 60 AEDs located in Vaughan facilities in open, public spaces, including Vaughan City Hall, community centres, libraries, the Joint Operations Centre, seniors’ centres and the City Playhouse Theatre. These devices are safe and easy for first responders and members of the public to use effectively during an emergency.

In 2018, two Vaughan employees saved their colleague’s life by using an AED located in city hall. Thanks to their quick actions and access to an AED, our colleague was able to safely return home to his family and friends.

According to the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada, approximately 35,000 cardiac arrests occur nationally each year --they can happen to anyone, anywhere, without warning. We might not know when we may need to help save a life, but at least we have access to the right tools in a City of Vaughan building.

--Deryn Rizzi is the chief of Vaughan Fire and Rescue Service.