Sudden cardiac arrest is one of the leading causes of death in the U.S. More than 350,000 people will suffer from sudden cardiac arrest this year. On December 14, 2015, a staff member of the Indiana Bankers Association (IBA) was added to this number.
Without warning or prior medical diagnosis, our colleague experienced ventricular fibrillation, the most serious cardiac rhythm disturbance. With “v-fib” the heart’s electrical activity becomes disordered. The heart’s lower chambers contract in a rapid, unsynchronized way. The ventricles “fibrillate” rather than beat. The heart pumps little or no blood. Collapse and sudden cardiac arrest follows.
The IBA has had an Emergency Response Plan for many years. It is a “lovely” document that tells everyone where the fire extinguishers and first aid kits are located. It tells where to go in case of a tornado or fire. On this day, it was worthless.
For us, this experience has reinforced several key principles of emergency preparedness:
- Have a plan. During an emergency, it is not the time to be asking questions.
- Communicate the plan. Not knowing about the plan is tantamount to not having a plan.
- Practice the plan. During an emergency, it is not the time to be reading the table of contents.
- Review and update the plan. Employees turn over, technology changes and best practices change.
An Automated External Defibrillator (AED) is the only effective treatment for restoring a regular heart rhythm during sudden cardiac arrest and is an easy-to-operate tool for someone with no medical background. Working through the Red Cross, the IBA has now purchased an Automatic External Defibrillator and is in the process of scheduling AED and CPR training for all staff members. This training will provide us with techniques and information that can help us save a life.
Our story does have a happy ending. EMTs were already on a call across the street from our office, and responded in under four minutes. They were able to save our friend who is now back at work on a restricted schedule during rehabilitation. Our own “Christmas miracle.”
Do you have an emergency response plan at your organization?