Community Service: Creating Public Access to Defibrillation Programs

Sudden cardiac arrest is one of the leading causes of death in the United States. The survival rate for witnessed, out-of-hospital, sudden cardiac arrest is approximately 5 percent in most communities. But in communities with public access...


From the very beginning, the North Lake Tahoe PAD program was closely involved with national and regional AED experts, including the American Heart Association and Nevada Project Heartbeat. At a local level, the program's first key partners were the agency in charge of the beaches, ski areas and recreation facilities, and the sheriff's office.

Both the North Lake Tahoe and San Ramon Valley PAD programs have gained the backing of local schools, churches and local philanthropic and community service groups.

“As we talked with schools, churches, the mayor’s office and leaders of town businesses, they were all interested in AEDs,” Schwartz said. “They'd all run risks, and they wanted to minimize those risks for the benefit of the whole community.”

3. Continuously available training.

Schwartz says that making CPR and AED training available on a regular basis (every Tuesday evening, with an all-day course one Saturday of every month) was essential.

“People know they can count on us to be there with the training if they need to renew their credentials,” he said.

Offering the training, and publicizing it through community news organizations, keeps the North Lake Tahoe PAD program in the public eye.

4. Support and coordination for AED owners.

The PAD programs make it easy for organizations and businesses to get and maintain their AEDs. They help with selection and purchasing and arrange on-site training for staff.

In North Lake Tahoe, organizations can purchase replacement batteries and AED pads through the program. The fire department assists local groups in obtaining grants from Nevada Project Heartbeat for AEDs and AED maintenance and has developed a relationship with a preferred vendor, Cardiac Science, which provides Powerheart G3 AEDs.

5. Strong funding and fundraising.

The North Lake Tahoe PAD program addressed the issue of ongoing funding by becoming essentially self-sustaining. Following the model of private safety-training firms, the fire department charges for CPR/AED training and for issuing certification cards to individuals who complete the training. It provides these services not only to the immediate community, but also to dozens of communities in Nevada and California.

“We issue 2,500 cards every month, at $5 a card,” Schwartz said. “It’s a way to do this and not cost the taxpayer.”

In the San Ramon Valley, the PAD Committee plays a major role in raising funds for the purchase of AEDs. Farrell talks to service organizations and other audiences about the importance of PAD programs and a community chain of survival that begins with CPR and ends with hospital-based care for sudden cardiac arrest survivors.

It’s a story he's uniquely equipped to tell.

“I talk about what happens when you have an AED, and can just take it off the wall and use it,” he says. “You can save someone’s life – that’s a pretty good investment.”

More more on this topic, view the webcast: "AEDs: Increasing Sudden Cardiac Arrest Survival Rates in Your Community"