Pennsylvania Amish community gets onboard with AED program

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Underscoring that a sudden cardiac arrest emergency requires quick response and that automated external defibrillators (AEDs) are easy to use, the Eastern Pennsylvania Chapter of the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Association (SCAA) has launched a unique community response team with the Amish community of Lancaster County, Pa., at the center of a broad program that will deploy AEDs in public locations, schools and even on horse and buggies and Amish farms.

The initiative involves nearly 50 citizens from Paradise Township—many of whom are leaders of the region's Amish community—fully trained in CPR and the use of AEDs to serve as first responders, working in conjunction with local EMS, fire and police departments.

"The national survival rate for sudden cardiac arrest is only 5 to 8 percent because it strikes any time at any place, and, unfortunately, emergency responders cannot always arrive immediately to provide the necessary resuscitation and defibrillation," said James Weber, leader of the Community Response Team and chair of SCAA's Eastern Pennsylvania chapter.

"These citizens, especially the Amish, who have traditionally rejected the use of technology, recognize that SCA is such a public health crisis that they are stepping forward to serve as first responders and utilize technology to create a safer, healthier community for their families, neighbors and visitors."

Weber led the training for the CRT participants and noted the sessions with Amish leaders reinforced that AEDs are easy to use. "We took a group of people who are not exposed to computers, video games or automobiles, yet within minutes, were able to follow the voice prompts of the AED to quickly and successfully apply a life-saving shock. There is no excuse why other communities, businesses and institutions cannot take a similar approach to protect their residents, employees and customers," he said.

While managed by the Paradise Township government, the Community Response Team program is a joint partnership which includes the Manheim Township Ambulance Association, SCAA, Cardiac Science Corporation and Ephrata Community Hospital. The program has strategically deployed AEDs and other communication devices throughout the largely rural area, including in Amish farms, churches and community centers. Participants completed extensive training in life-saving emergency procedures.