They are not much bigger than a child’s back pack and tucked away unceremoniously in various locations throughout the city.


This story first ran in the Oct. 30 edition of the Kansan.

They are not much bigger than a child’s back pack and tucked away unceremoniously in various locations throughout the city.

But these public-access defibrillator packs can be life savers in cardiac emergencies.

The defibrillators are located throughout the community in schools, churches, businesses and other public places.

As the cost for the devices continues to go down and they become easier to use, Mark Willis, Newton Fire/EMS deputy chief, is encouraging more organizations to put the devices in their facilities.

Public access defibrillators receive strong support from all aspects of the medical community,” he said. “For a cardiac arrest patient, it is the definitive care.”

The devices can range in price from $1,000 to $2,500.

“The sooner patients in cardiac arrest receive treatment, the greater their odds of survival, Willis said.

The survival rate for a cardiac-arrest patient drops by 10 percent for every minute CPR or a defibrillator is not used.

The defibrillators work similar to those used by emergency responders or hospital personnel.

The equipment checks to see if the patient has a heart beat and then allows the operator to administer an electric shock to restart the heart, if necessary.

The defibrillators will not administer a shock if they detect a heart beat in the patient.

No medical training is required to use the defibrillators, although a short training session is recommended for people who might be called on to use the equipment.

Willis said the defibrillators are very easy to use.

A person who uses a public-access defibrillators to render aid to a cardiac patient is protected under Kansas Good Samaritan laws and cannot be held legally liable for any poor outcomes, Willis said.

He said he would like to see the defibrillators go into more buildings in the community.

“Ideally, we would like an AED (defibrillator) in any area where there might be a large public assembly, a work place or a large gathering area,” Willis said.

The Newton school district has two defibrillators at Newton High School, and Newton Medical Center has donated funds to place the devices in each of the middle schools.

Donna Eigsti, USD 373 school nurse coordinator, said the district hopes eventually to add the devices to all the elementary schools.

The devices are being placed in the school as a precautionary measure, Eigsti said. They are there mainly to protect the student population, although they could be used on staff or anyone using the school facilities, she said.

Although cardiac conditions are less common among children, Eigsti said children can have cardiac emergencies. That risk tends to go up when children are competing in athletics, she said.

Select staff at all the buildings with defibrillators will be trained on their use.

A member of First Presbyterian Church in Newton donated a defibrillator about a year ago after members of the congregation heard about a person who was saved in an airport by a public access defibrillator.

Pastor Jim Anderson took training on how to us the device and said defibrillator was easy to use.

“You open it up, and a recording tells you what to do,” Anderson said.

Salem United Methodist Church purchased a defibrillator six months ago.

“We thought it might be a safety issue,” said John Beaver, head trustee of the church, “if something happened during worship service time.”

The Newton Recreation Commission has had defibrillators in its facilities for years.

The commission has two defibrillators at the Newton Activity Center and one at the municipal pool.

Most of the recreation staff are training how to use the devices.

“We wanted to make sure that we had taken every possible measure in case there was a problem,” said Brian Bascue, recreation superintendent.

The devices at the activity center have been used twice. However, the patients in neither case had to be shocked.

“I think any time you have people engaging in high physical activity, you need to have them at those facilities,” Bascue said.