The city of Laurel is taking the health and safety of its residents to heart.
At the Laurel Municipal Center on Feb. 19 — during American Heart Month — the city accepted a donation of 100 automated external defibrillators, which can jump-start a heart through electric shock.
Gaithersburg-based Rescue One Training for Life, a distributor of AEDs and other safety products, gave the devices to the city after the company’s CEO determined Laurel’s size and location made it a good candidate for the donation.
Laurel Mayor Craig Moe said the donation, valued at around $50,000, might be the largest of its kind in the country.
“In order to best prepare to save lives when an emergency occurs, such as a heart attack, you need to possess lifesaving skills,” Moe said. “CPR training and AED awareness can help you know these necessary skills which can, if applied, save a life.”
Prior to the donation, the city had about six AEDs, which were stored at city facilities and not in vehicles, said Pete Piringer, Laurel’s public information officer.
Laurel Police Chief Rich McLaughlin said he knows of three instances when Laurel police had to perform CPR on residents suffering from cardiac arrest, but didn’t have access to an AED. Only one of the three victims survived, McLaughlin said.
“In the past, we have come across disabled vehicles, or what appear to be disabled vehicles, which have resulted with somebody in cardiac arrest,” McLaughlin said. “I think having [the new AEDs] will greatly increase the survivability [of victims].”
Moe said the AEDs will be placed in all police cars, city facilities and some additional city vehicles, such as those used by code enforcement, public works, and parks and recreation department staff. The devices will remain in the police vehicles when officers take their patrol cars home while off duty, Moe said.
“When not on patrol, our officers are typically out in the community,” he said. “It will be at these times the lifesaving tools would be available at the homes of our employees, at the sports events or shopping centers, or even along the highway.”
Martin Flemion, Laurel’s director of emergency services, said all city employees will be trained to use the devices.
“The devices are extremely easy to use. All you do is press a button and follow the instructions,” Flemion said.
Employee training will include a six-hour course on CPR and AED use, Flemion said.
Flemion is one of the city staff members behind Laurel’s emergency preparedness program, which is helping to set municipal emergency response standards through the Maryland Municipal League.
Rescue One CEO Jeremy Gruber said the new devices and training will enhance the effectiveness of Laurel’s emergency preparedness program.
“Understanding that [Laurel is] trying to be a very forward-thinking community and doing things such as the emergency response, this plays right into it,” Gruber said. “[It allows city staff] to be outfitted with the tools to use that training.”
Moe said he thinks Laurel is paving the way for other towns and cities who wish to develop similar programs.
“We hope that once this moves forward, and we believe it’s going to work well, that other municipalities and other groups will follow along,” he said.