Stow -- City residents or businesses may soon be able to receive a reimbursement for up to half the cost of purchasing a device that saves lives.

"I think it's important in our city to encourage the use of what are called automatic external defibrillators," said City Councilor Mike Rasor at Council's Aug. 8 roads and safety committee.

Rasor, who serves as the committee's chairman, is sponsoring an ordinance that would provide reimbursements, capped at $2,500, for half the cost of AEDs. He said he consulted with Fire Chief Bill Kalbaugh and Law Director Brian Reali in drafting the legislation, but the legality under state law of a proposal to provide the reimbursements in the form of a tax credit needs to be determined, so the ordinance would remain in committee for the time being.

AEDs are devices that provide electric shocks through the chest that can normalize heart rhythm during cardiac arrest. According to the American Heart Association, a patient's chances of survival drops by up to 10 percent for every minute a normal heartbeat is not restored. Current AED models have computer systems that can detect a heartbeat and determine whether a shock is needed with a high degree of accuracy.

Stow Fire Capt. Raymund Durkee said the devices, which are regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, have a long track record of use not only by police and fire departments, but also in such public places as airports and casinos.

"There's been proven efficacy with them," he said.

The proposed ordinance is not retroactive and would require purchasers to provide proof that the AED was purchased after the ordinance's effective date. Also required would be written statements that AEDs will remain in the city at all times, will be used according to manufacturers' guidelines and that will not be resold or returned within its "useful operational life."

The city's board of control would approve reimbursement applications and the ordinance would provide for a $25,000 appropriation to be used for the reimbursements, with any additional appropriations subject to Council approval.

Division Fire Chief Lou Ann Metz told Council that she does not know of any businesses in the city that have AEDs, but believes there are two churches that each have one.

"I'm very excited that we're going to look at this. I think we're a progressive city," she said.

Metz, however, cautioned that helping residents and businesses purchase AEDs should be only part of a larger "educational campaign" that should include training the public in cardiopulmonary resuscitation, particularly chest compressions, which is vital even when an AED is used.

Metz said that the survival rate of patients going into cardiac arrest outside of a hospital are dismal, with statistics showing that while many people do receive CPR training, many do not use it in an emergency, probably because they are afraid of a lawsuit if the person does not survive.

"There's a lot of fear there that they're not going to use it right," said Metz, adding that "you're not going to get sued."

"If they're dead, you're not going to make them deader," she said.


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