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 UCPD Officer Hans Williams demonstrates the use of a portable defibrillator kit - the box on the trunk of the squad car - with the help of a torso illustration. (Deborah Stalford photo)

Heart-starting news from UCPD

| 28 February 2007

In the course of their regular duties, campus police rely on the standard tools of the trade, whether it's handguns or traffic cones. Now, though, they're armed with a new weapon aimed at maintaining the health and safety of faculty, staff, and students: the portable defibrillator kit.

With 16 AEDs, or Automated External Defibrillators, the UC Police Department is able to keep one in each of its 14 squad cars - only 6 or 8 of which are likely to be patrolling at any given moment - with a couple on hand at its Sproul Hall headquarters. The department acquired its first 10 devices about a year ago, and later came up with the funds to ensure that every officer has one available for emergencies.

"A lot of police departments were moving toward this," explains Lt. Douglas Wing, who says the UCPD has been called to the scene of a medical emergency three times since the program began, pointing up the potential need for the kits and the wisdom of having them nearby at all times. In December, UCPD officers responded to a call for help near Dwinelle Hall, where former Chancellor Alfred Bowker had collapsed. Bowker was already being given CPR by athletic medical trainers from Haas Pavilion, where the staff also has access to defibrillator kits.

While all officers receive training before they use the devices, the machines themselves literally talk their operators through each life-saving step. In a calm, clear voice, the AED announces that it is "analyzing heart rhythm," and then, if appropriate, adds, "Shock advised." Once the shock is delivered - via soft pads rather than paddles - the voice goes on to talk the operator through CPR.

The bright-yellow units are roughly the size of a large toolkit and cost about $700 apiece, not including training costs.