Imagine a place where lifesaving help is no more than a football field’s length away; where average citizens with CPR training could keep a fellow human being alive until professional medical help can arrive; where automatic external defibrillator machines, which can resuscitate victims of cardiac arrest, find homes in everyday business locations.
Boulder City, Nev., southeast of Las Vegas, is just such a place. Small in population, it was recognized this year as a finalist for the Cashman Good Government Award in the category of Cities Under 100,000. The honor was bestowed for the Boulder City Fire Department’s recent campaign to install AEDs every 300 feet around town, including within public businesses, prompted by the awareness that a heart attack can occur at any time and in any place.
The award, sponsored by the Nevada Taxpayers Association, “honors government entities and individuals who put workplace experience together with ingenuity to make citizen services work better, faster, and cheaper,” the website states.
An AED device “automatically analyzes the heart rhythm in people who are experiencing cardiac arrest. When appropriate, it delivers an electrical shock to the heart to restore its normal rhythm,” according to the FDA. Public access AEDs are intended “to be used by laypeople who have received minimal training.”
The idea for the campaign came from concerned citizens of the community. Will Gray, Boulder City fire chief, explained that it was at an external stakeholder strategic planning meeting that community members requested more AED/CPR training within the local community. “This led to further discussion within the department as to how we could do this in a way that best serves the residents and visitors of Boulder City,” he commented.
Cardiovascular disease is a leading killer of Americans, states the Center for Disease Control, with about 805,000 people in the U.S. suffering a heart attack every year, or one person every 40 seconds. Given that one out of every 10 emergency calls the Boulder City Fire Department receives daily involves a victim of cardiac-related issues, having residents trained in CPR and defibrillator use could save lives.
“In the unfortunate event that someone goes into cardiac arrest, the AEDs will be used to deliver defibrillation to a victim rapidly before fire crews arrive. This will result in a significant increase in the chance of survival from a potentially fatal event,” said Gray.
To date, the Boulder City Fire Department has placed 23 units in businesses, such as fast-food restaurants and insurance companies, with approximately 25 additional units ready to be installed in willing establishments. Around 150 people have attended the monthly AED/CPR classes or group trainings for individual businesses.
The program began in 2022. Funding for the machines and training came from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, part of the federal government’s stimulus plan to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Thanks to the residents of Boulder City, AED devices are no longer only seen on football fields or in sports centers. Gray said he would be happy to work with additional businesses to see if they qualify to have an AED installed free of charge at their location. Interested parties need only contact the fire department.
“The community response to the program has been great, from the idea of the program to the funding and getting them into the businesses,” he said.
In addition to being a finalist for the Cashman Good Government Award, Boulder City also received Accredited Agency status with the Commission on Fire Accreditation International for meeting criteria established through CFAI’s voluntary self-assessment and accreditation program. This was a three-year process, and Boulder City is one of only three fire departments in the state of Nevada to accomplish it.
Taylour Tedder, city manager, lauds the fact that they achieved the accreditation.
“This achievement demonstrates the commitment of the agency to provide the highest quality of service to our community,” he said. “I’m proud of this great accomplishment and of the men and women who serve our residents and visitors.” “These recognitions are great, and we were honored to receive them and thankful for the nomination,” Gray added. “The greatest honor will be when a life is saved when one of these AEDs is used during a medical emergency.”