Los Angeles has placed the first 30 of a planned 200 defibrillators in public places such as the zoo and the convention center in what officials call the nation's most extensive municipal program yet to save the lives of people having heart attacks.
Although every city firetruck and ambulance has been equipped with defibrillators for more than a decade, the new city program will make the devices more accessible than ever before.
Marc Eckstein, medical director of the Los Angeles Fire Department, who is in charge of the program, said Thursday that by summer the city will have given 100 employees four hours of training in the use of the defibrillators and CPR techniques. The program will cost $700,000 for the first year, including training, installation and the defibrillators, which typically retail for $3,000.
Eventually, Eckstein hopes Los Angeles will have 1,000 devices in place and have trained 40,000 city employees in their use.
Eckstein said that many of the defibrillators will be placed in glass installations like fire extinguishers, and that in some cases untrained people have used them successfully to jolt a person's heart back into a normal rhythm. As soon as they are turned on, the devices play recorded instructions on their use.
But training is preferable, the medical director said.
On the other hand, Eckstein said, time is of the essence in the use of defibrillators. For every minute that elapses after a person has entered into sudden cardiac arrest before the device is used, "the chance of survival goes down about 10%," he said.
Eckstein said plans call for 50 defibrillators at Los Angeles International Airport in the next two months. Some are already in place.