by Dennis Dalman
Interest in AED SaveStations is growing by leaps and bounds, and the Sartell City Council members are now expressing a keen interest in setting up some of them.
At the Aug. 26 council meeting, two SaveStation experts – Rich Feneis of Sartell and Joel Vogel of St. Joseph – gave a presentation about the stations. Previously, the two men had met with Sartell City Planner Nate Keller and a member of the Sartell Chamber of Commerce.
After the presentation, council members said they are definitely in favor of checking further into SaveStations and where in the city they could be placed. Mayor Ryan Fitzthum said it would be good to have some placed in parks and outside the new fire-police facility. Sartell city staff will apply for grants to CentraCare in hopes of maybe helping fund some stations.
An AED SaveStation is a place – usually outdoors — where an automatic external defibrillator (AED) is installed, inside of a temperature-controlled box. Any member of the public has access to the AED at an AED SaveStation when a sudden cardiac arrest occurs. If that crisis should happen, a person with the victim should call 911 immediately and then that person (or someone else) should begin cardiopulmonary resuscitation right away. Someone at the scene could rush to the nearest SaveStation to grab its AED and return to the scene of the medical crisis where it can be used to “shock” the victim’s heart into beating again. Hopefully, though, emergency medical technicians will arrive in time to use their own AED.
The SaveStation can also be programmed with up to 120 phone numbers to make automatic phone calls to notify neighborhood volunteers there is an emergency because someone just opened the panel of the SaveStation. The calls are triggered as soon as the front panel of the station is opened. Opening the panel also causes the machine to take an instant photo of the person opening it.
Thanks to the efforts of Vogel and Feneis, Central Minnesota is becoming the place for installation of the stations. In just the last few months, one was installed at the Pine Point area in north Sartell (where Feneis lives), two in the St. Cloud area and five in St. Joseph. Four of the latter were purchased by St. Joseph resident Audrey Twit in memory of her late husband, Ken, a pharmacist and city-council member who died of a heart attack.
Vogel, who is a survivor of a heart attack, became very involved in the issue of heart health with an organization called Mended Hearts. Vogel, who happens to be one of Feneis’s golfing buddies, inspired Feneis to join an effort to get SaveStations in the area. In just the past year, they have had remarkable success, with people and organizations far and wide expressing interest – from as far away as Naples, Florida. About six weeks ago, KARE-TV broadcast a feature about the SaveStations in St. Joseph, including an interview with a St. Cloud woman, Jerry Hess, who saved the life of her husband, Jerry, by using an AED on him after he collapsed from sudden cardiac arrest.
A few weeks ago, when Feneis visited his home away from home, Naples, Florida, he met with a member of the American Heart Association to inform her about the stations. He showed the KARE video to her and, wide-eyed, she blurted out that she’d seen the same video posted on an American Heart Association website, placed there by someone who’d seen the video on a Chicago TV station.
Someone from the Waite Park Moose Lodge also saw the video and called Feneis, a member of that lodge, to say the Moose Lodge wants to donate money for a SaveStation to be installed right outside the lodge.
Just recently, Cold Spring applied for a grant to get a SaveSation, and the city of Brooten expressed interest in installing four SaveStations.
Feneis said many people also read stories about SaveStations in the St. Joseph and Sartell Newsleader newspapers and contacted him or Vogel about how to go about getting them, including grants given by the CentraCare Take Heart organization, which also offers free seminars on how to perform CPR.
Vogel told the Sartell City Council he and Feneis have talked with all police chiefs in the area, including Sartell Chief Jim Hughes, as well as many individuals, organizations and businesses interested in donating money. As part of SaveStation outreach and funding, Feneis started a nonprofit organization called Advocates for Health. The goal is to get at least 50 of the stations in Central Minnesota during the coming year, and both men are brimming with confidence that goal can be attained or exceeded. The local sheriffs – Steve Soyka of Stearns and Troy Heck of Benton – are also supportive and have signed on to help the effort.
Vogel and Feneis set up a tent in various places so residents can learn how an AED works and more information about it and how and where to receive free CPR training.
A recent ambitious project involved finding the locations of all AEDs in Central Minnesota, the overwhelming number of them indoor machines inaccessible to people during after-business hours. Molly Young, a College of St. Benedict senior, made visits to all of the places where AEDs were located – a total of 481 of0them at various places. Young then drew up an inventory list. Feneis said many of the machines had dead batteries or needed new chest pads.
The next step, after the inventory project, will be taken by the St. Cloud-based GeoComm, a geographic information-systems technology company. It will place all of the AED locations on maps that can be used as overlays by dispatching units throughout Central Minnesota. That way, if a 911 call about a cardiac arrest is received, the dispatcher can tell the caller precisely where the nearest AED machine is located. That same information will be placed on city websites and on phone applications.
Many of the people at the places contacted that have indoor-only AEDs said they are now considering having a SaveStation outside of their schools, churches or places of business.
A standard AED costs close to $3,000, but there are additional expenses in acquiring a SaveStation and installing it in the station – either mounted on a wall or installed on a stand-alone “tower” that is about 5 feet tall.
Those involved in the AED effort, thanks to the spearheading efforts of Feneis and Vogel, are CentraCare’s Take Heart, local police and sheriff departments, Mended Hearts, the Greater St. Cloud Safety Coalition, the Stearns County Health and Safety Foundation, and Advocates for Health.