OC Fire Department Reports High Cardiac Arrest Save Rate
Save rate this summer is more than seven times higher than the national average.
If every rescue squad in the country had the same sudden cardiac arrest success rate that Ocean City's has had this summer, tens of thousands of lives would have been saved.
Since May 1, the Ocean City Fire Department, which is also the city's rescue squad, has successfully saved the lives of 50 percent of sudden cardiac arrest victims, from resuscitating the victim on the scene using CPR and automated external defibrillators (AED) to transporting the victim to the hospital within the "golden hour"—the first 60 minutes being the most crucial with regard to saving a person's life after sudden cardiac arrest.
Just how high is a 50 percent save rate? Throughout the country the rate is at seven percent, according to Firefighter Ray Clark of the Ocean City Fire Department.
With 383,000 out-of-hospital sudden cardiac arrests occurring every year, according to the American Heart Association, that means that even if the national average were to jump to 20 percent, that would be 50,000 extra lives saved.
"Our biggest thing is time and distance," said Ocean City Fire Chief Chris Breunig. "Having the right manpower in the right spot."
Clark explained further, adding that with Ocean City being elongated, and with a three station model, each spread out equally at Asbury between 5th Street and 6th Street, 29th Street and 46th street, the department is able to respond to any call within two minutes.
This time is crucial for sudden cardiac arrest victims. For each minute that the use of an AED is delayed, the chance of survival is reduced by seven to 10 percent, Clark said.
"A treatment that takes four to five minutes decreases survival rates by as much as 40 percent, and 10 minutes or longer results in death 95 percent of the time," Clark said.
Ocean City's Fire Department is also its rescue squad, so the firefighters are trained emergency medical technicians, trained to use CPR and AEDs. Each call is responded to by more than one engine, also. So when the first group arrives at the scene they can work on resuscitation while the second group prepares to transport the victim—saving even more time between the original call and the hospital.
The 50 percent success rate that the fire department has seen this summer is slightly higher than normal, but the department's rate, according to Breunig, has always been around 30 percent, which is well above the seven percent national average.
The Ocean City Beach Patrol, which is under the umbrella of the fire department, also has the same training in the use of CPR and AEDs, and has strategically placed AEDs throughout the city, in the same spots that beach patrol vehicles are located.
"Every person on the beach patrol is trained in CPR, basic first aid, and the use of AED," said Clark. "Every life guard you see has those skill sets."
Clark also provided some tips for residents, saying that one of the first signs and symptoms of any medical emergency is denial.
"It's important that if something doesn't seem typical that you seek medical treatment," he said.