Police Defibrillators


Every year, up to 450,000 Americans suffer from sudden cardiac arrest (SCA). Approximately one person dies every two minutes from SCA. The sad thing about this is that while sudden cardiac arrest cannot be prevented, with early treatment sudden cardiac death can be! The treatment can be as easy as using an automated external defibrillator (AED) to deliver electric shocks to the heart to stop ventricular fibrillation (when the heart begins beating erratically).


Police and law enforcement officials are often the first to arrive on the scene of a sudden cardiac arrest. By carrying automated external defibrillators in their vehicles, police officers can increase the survival rate of SCA victims and save more lives each year.

Automated external defibrillation must be started within minutes of the onset of the SCA because every minute that passes increases the likelihood of brain damage or death. If the first emergency personnel on scene are equipped with an AED, precious time is saved and the chances of survival are increased.


Many towns and cities across the country have started equipping their police cars with AED units and training their police officers on their use.

In July, 2002, only one year after the Hampton, Iowa police department began carrying AEDs in their cars, Mari Ann Wearda suffered a sudden cardiac arrest while driving her car. Two minutes after her car veered off the road and crashed, two 911 calls came in; Officer Chad Ellness arrived on the scene at 11:40 am. At 11:41 he turned the defibrillator on. At 11:42 the officer was directed to push the button to send a shock to Ms. Wearda’s heart. She required one more shock and by the time the ambulance arrived seven minutes later, her heart was beating normally and she was on her way to the hospital. Only about five percent of all SCA victims make it to the hospital alive. Having an AED in his police car allowed Officer Ellness to provide Ms. Wearda with the life saving treatment she needed. If no automated external defibrillator had been available that day, she most likely would have died.

In study after study, it has been shown that the sooner an SCA is treated with an AED, the better. Every minute that passes, the chances of survival lessen by ten percent.

In May, 2004, Paul Beauregard, of Plainstown, New Hampshire suffered sudden cardiac arrest while performing his job in Hampstead, New Hampshire. Luckily for him, the police were already on scene. Even more fortunate, the officer who was there had the only Hampstead police cruiser equipped with an automated external defibrillator. Mr. Beauregard was revived within three minutes and regained consciousness after arriving at the hospital. He was a bit confused by what had happened, but suffered no permanent brain damage. Since his SCA, Mr. Beauregard has been active in getting more AEDs placed in public locations around his community. He notes that along with AEDs in police cruisers, there are now AED units in the town’s American Legion post, library, senior citizens’ center and the town hall.

Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) alone cannot save a victim who is suffering sudden cardiac arrest or ventricular fibrillation (when the heart begins to quiver and stops pumping blood). CPR helps circulate a small amount of blood to the heart and brain while an SCA is occurring but defibrillation is necessary to restore a normal heart rhythm. Outside of a hospital, an AED is the only type of equipment that can deliver the necessary electric shock needed to restart the victim’s heart.

In September, 2002, Gene Johnson of New Brighton, Minnesota had just finished working on his front yard. He suffered a sudden cardiac arrest and his wife found lying face down on their driveway. She immediately called 911 and soon after two New Brighton police officers in separate squad cars arrived; one of which was equipped with the city’s only AED unit. The officers began administering CPR but after a few minutes, it became apparent that CPR was not working. The officers attached the AED to Mr. Johnson and administered two shocks. His heart started beating and he was transported to the hospital via ambulance. After making a full recovery and suffering no lasting effects from the SCA, Mr. Johnson and his neighbors, along with the New Brighton Lions, New Brighton-Mounds View Rotary, and the Twin Cities North Chamber, came together and started raising funds for the purchase of more AEDs for the city. "Next thing we knew, we were able to purchase nine more AEDs," Mr. Johnson says. Those AEDs have been credited with saving at least three more lives.

There are many more stories from police departments across the nation detailing how automated external defibrillators have saved lives. Equipping the men and women who are most often the first responders to sudden cardiac arrest emergencies are an important first step in saving lives. Making AEDs part of the standard equipment that police cruisers carry and making AED training mandatory for police officers who are most often the first responders to an emergency ensures that the public can rest assured that when and if someone suffers from sudden cardiac arrest, the necessary lifesaving treatment will be available.

Two Seabrook, Massachusetts police officers were honored and given awards in June 2010 for their efforts in saving a woman’s life in January 2010. AEDs are standard equipment in Seabrook police cruisers; after the AEDs were purchased and donated by the Seabrook nuclear power plant, the Seabrook fire department provided the training to the police department. The two police officers were on patrol and heard the emergency broadcast. Since they were in the area, they responded and found that a woman had stopped breathing (a major indication that she was suffering from sudden cardiac arrest). The officers retrieved the AED from a police cruiser and upon placing the pads on the woman’s chest, were informed by the AED unit that shocking the victim was necessary. When her heart began beating again, they began CPR until EMTs arrived and transported the woman to the hospital. The woman’s life was saved and she suffered no permanent damage.