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April 25, 2008

UAlbany Trains Responders with AED Defibrillators

AED Defibrillators

Alex Angel, left, UAlbany's AED program coordinator, shows senior Katie Nowak how to use the AED outside of the Terrace Lounge, one of two machines located in the Campus Center. (Photo by Mark Schmidt)

"It's funny, a lot of people don't know what they are," notes Michael Chadwick, a junior environmental science major from Buffalo. 

Chadwick is speaking of Automated External Defibrillators, or AEDs, which have been popping up all over the UAlbany campus in recent months.  According to the American Heart Association, an AED is a computerized medical device which can check a personís heart rhythm, and recognize a rhythm that requires a shock.  It can advise the rescuer when a shock is needed, and uses voice prompts, lights and text messages to tell the rescuer which steps to take.  As part of the newly-implemented, state-initiated SUNY Lifesaver program, AEDs will soon be appearing in most buildings on campus, both at UAlbany and throughout the entire SUNY system.

UAlbany's AED Program Coordinator, Alexandra Angel, says that between 30 and 40 AED/CPR (Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation) training sessions have already occurred on campus, producing close to 400 student and faculty "responders."  These two-hour sessions aim to teach the basics of CPR and using AEDs, and are unique from other training courses in that the entire two hours is spent practicing, instead of just sitting and listening to someone talk.

Angel describes the training as "very hands-on," and adds that "people walk out very confident, knowing CPR and knowing the AED."  She also notes that those who have taken the course become aware of the prevalence of AEDs in other venues.  "Walking around airports, malls, schools, you start to notice them everywhere."  Angel, who has been with the Lifesaver program since its inception in 2006, cites the initiative of Heather Frenz as being instrumental to UAlbany's involvement in the program.  Frenz helped with setting up training sessions and spreading the word on campus.

If faced with operating the AED, junior Adam Miller, a sociology major from Long Island, says "I would know that I should use it, but I wouldn't know how."  Though she recommends training, Angel insists that AEDs can be used by anyone who can follow directions.  Because the device talks, it can walk the operator through each step of the CPR process, as well as explain when and how to apply the pads.  The AED even knows when the victim is in cardiac arrest; if it cannot sense this, it will not administer a shock.  "It tells you everything," Angel says.  "Itís so easy a child could use it."

By the time installation is complete, there will be over 100 AEDs on the UAlbany campuses, including uptown, downtown, and the East Campus. Depending on the model, AEDs can cost between $1,500 and $2,400, which is covered by the SUNY system as part of their state-funded initiative.  Training on and maintenance of the devices on campus are funded by the University at Albany.

Angel notes that student response to the AEDs has been overwhelmingly supportive, especially that of Residential Life and Five Quad Volunteer Ambulance Service.  According to Res Life assistant director Holly Van Allen, all professional staff members of Res Life have gone through the AED course, and the organization is aiming to run training programs for their residents sometime in the fall. 

"It's always safety first," says Miller.  "In case there's an accident, it's a good idea [to have AEDs].  Learning of the ease of their operation, he added: "I would absolutely use one."

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