NHP Trooper Honored for Deploying Automated External Defibrillator

A local law enforcement officer was honored last week for attempting to save a life with an AED unit.

On Tuesday, April 23, Nevada Highway Patrol Trooper Zachary Peterson was honored for deploying the AED (Automated External Defibrillator) that he carries in his patrol vehicle.

The recognition award was presented by Humboldt General Hospital EMS Rescue Director Pat Songer during the monthly meeting of the Humboldt County Hospital District Board of Trustees.

Songer praised Trooper Peterson for acting fast upon his arrival on scene. Unfortunately, Songer told the assembled crowd that, in this instance, it was too late and the victim succumbed.

However, he said Humboldt General Hospital still wanted to recognize Trooper Peterson and all area law enforcement officers for their role as first responders.

All law enforcement officers in Humboldt County not only carry AED units in their vehicles, but are trained by local staff members in how to use them. Because they usually arrive on scene before an ambulance, they play a crucial role in saving the lives of local citizens.

For his part, Trooper Peterson said, "I want to thank Pat Songer and staff for everything they do for us and for providing equipment we can use to save lives."

Trooper Peterson was accompanied by Sgt. Greg Johnson and Lt. Tom Ames.

Local Nevada Highway Patrol Troopers began carrying the AED units in 2008. Songer said the local officers' willingness to carry the AEDs earned them the distinction of being among the first services nationally—and perhaps the first in rural America—to accept first-responder AED status.

"This really is a historic moment for our community," said Songer at the time. "We now have 100 percent coverage between our local Nevada Highway Patrol troopers, officers from the Winnemucca Police Department and deputies from the Humboldt County Sheriff's Office."

The troopers utilize the units in the event of sudden cardiac arrest—which is the leading cause of death in the United States.

In sudden cardiac arrest, the heart suddenly stops beating normally. The electrical impulses that control the rhythm of the heart become so disorganized that the heart begins beating at an abnormally rapid and chaotic pace and can no longer effectively pump blood to the body or oxygen to the brain.

According to Songer, the only effective treatment for SCA is defibrillation, a brief electrical shock sent through a person's chest to the heart, restoring normal rhythm.

But it must happen quickly, he said.

"Time is the key factor for survival," said Songer. "Really, a defibrillation shock has to be delivered very soon after the onset of a life-threatening heart rhythm or the damage becomes too great."

In fact, Songer said that for every minute that passes prior to receiving a defibrillation shock, a victim's chances of survival decline by about 10 percent.

The small, battery-operated units that troopers carry in their vehicles are fully automated, utilizing comprehensive voice and text prompts to guide responders through the rescue process. They also are intuitive enough to not deliver a shock unless a heart is in arrest.

"So the idea is to get people defibrillated as quickly as possible," said Songer, "because if we can do that, studies show that more than 90 percent can survive."

Humboldt General Hospital has placed nearly 200 AED units in public and private venues throughout Humboldt County. The units that were gifted to the NHP were made possible through the generosity of the Humboldt Hospital Auxiliary and the Humboldt County Volunteer Ambulance Association.

Officers from the Winnemucca Police Department and the Humboldt County Sheriff's

Office began receiving units for their vehicles as early as April 2006. Currently, every police officer and sheriff's deputy carries one of the defibrillators.

"We're thrilled with the partnerships we have made," said Songer. "Our first responders are so community-minded; their number one priority is the public's safety and well-being."

Songer added, "Thanks to them, it has been a pleasure implementing this phase of our program."

For more information on the Humboldt General Hospital Public Access Defibrillator (PAD) Program, please call "HeartShare" AED Manager Debbie Whittaker at (775) 623-5222, ext. 1363.