Philadelphia hunts for heart defibrillators
December 13, 2011By Taunya English
Local public health researchers are asking for a little assistance--and offering some serious money--to help map where life-saving devices have been stashed around Philadelphia.
Quick, think fast: If your boss falls down in cardiac arrest, where would you find one of those portable devices to get his heart going again?
Automated external defibrillators or AEDs are in lots of large companies, schools and public spaces, but many of us haven't noticed them.
Emergency room doctor Raina Merchant and her team at Penn Medicine dreamt up a public challenge to increase awareness.
"When you are walking to work or going to the gym, if you see an AED, take a picture of it, answer a few questions about the device: 'So it's on the second floor next to the elevator,' and send that information to our database," Merchant said.
The researchers hope to create a mobile phone app that maps the AEDs around Philadelphia.
The MyHeartMap Challenge is part crowd-sourcing, part Willy Wonka adventure.
One winner gets $10,000, some participants will win $50 if they're the first to identify one of the designated "golden" devices.
A defibrillator shocks the heart so it can regain a regular rhythm. It's most effective in the first minutes after someone collapses. Many CPR courses train people to use an AED, but prior training isn't necessary, said Jonathan Epstein, a member of the American Red Cross Scientific Advisory Council.
"Once you turn it on, the AED gives you full and complete instructions on what to do step-by-step," Epstein said. "It's only going to do what it's supposed to do. So it's actually a fairly simple process once you make the decision to turn it on."
Mapping AEDs might also ensure they are checked from time to time to assure they're functioning properly.