Tom Baldwin at the Agassiz Speedway with a new automatic defibrillator.

More automated defibrillators in Agassiz

Life-saving devices are becoming an important part of emergency preparedness.

The folks at the Agassiz Speedway learned just how important having an automated external defibrillator (AED) on hand is on July 9 when an attendee of one of the races suffered a heart attack.

Staff were able to use the speedway’s AED, a device which can read heart rhythms and use electric shocks to treat sudden cardiac arrest, and save the visitor’s life.

Tom Baldwin, main gate supervisor at the Agassiz Speedway, explained that having the AED on hand is necessary, especially considering the distance that the speedway is from the nearest hospital.

“When we’re at a distance like that we have first aid, but if you need something beyond the first aid, it’s going to take a long time for emergency help to arrive,” he said. “If you have to call an ambulance, it takes a fair length of time.”

The chance of survival reduces quickly after a heart attack without proper medical attention. By the ten-minute mark the survival rate is slim, so having an AED nearby can be extremely useful.

The Agassiz Speedway received their AED last year, from the Heart and Stroke Foundation who, at the time, was providing them free of cost to various establishments.

“They got in touch with us, and we said, yes, we’ll take one,” Baldwin said.

But after experiencing first hand just how useful having an AED nearby can be, Baldwin noted that the speedway is hoping to purchase another one to have on site.

“This way we’ll have one in the pits in case something happens down there, and then we have one upstairs up in the grandstands because if you have a race on, it takes a little while, a few minutes at least, to stop the race before you can get the defibrillator from one area to the other,” he said.

The Agassiz Speedway isn’t the only establishment in the area with an AED on hand, and Garry Enright, first vice and public relations chair of the Agassiz branch of the Royal Canadian Legion, explained why the Legion decided to bring one into their facility as well.

“We’re all about prolonging life and keeping members going,” he said. “We haven’t had to use it yet, and that’s the goal not to.”

The Legion’s decision to purchase an AED was initially sparked by former Legion president and second vice Jim Johnson.

“It was his initiative, and, of course, we all jumped on the bandwagon because it’s a good idea,” Enright said.

With a membership including roughly 90 percent senior citizens, Enright explained that the AED fit in with the Legion’s plan for emergency preparedness.

“We have kitchen space, we have a large hall for an earthquake or whatever so that we can feed and house if necessary in case of emergency, and the AED fits right in with the emergency preparedness,” he said.

The Legion also hosted a training session earlier in the month so that members of the public could learn how to properly use the AED.

“It went fantastic,” Enright said. “The training session is done now, and we have a whack of people qualified to use it. We gave out numerous amounts of certificates for the qualifications, and they’ll be giving out more.”

With AEDs becoming more accessible to the public, they’re also becoming more common in the area. Baldwin suggested that this could also be the result of how easy modern AEDs are to use.

“People are realizing the value of them, and they’re pretty easy to use,” he said. “I didn’t see it being used, but they say it’s so simple. There’s a recorded message inside that tells you exactly what to do and how to do it.”

“The way they’re used nowadays, with the new first aid courses, CPR and the AED go hand in hand now,” Enright added. “It used to be that you counted off so many beats, and now it’s 30 compressions and two breaths. If that’s not working, you hook up the AED right away and continue with the compressions and it will tell you to back off or you get zapped. It’s a very automated thing.”

Aside from the Agassiz Speedway and the Agassiz Royal Canadian Legion, AEDs can be found at various other locations in the area, including the Kent District Hall and the Agassiz United Church.