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Mandatory AEDs make public places safer

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Manitobans will soon have even greater access to potentially life-saving devices that could increase the odds of surviving a major cardiac events by up to 75%.

Automated external defibrillators (AEDs) will now be required in high-traffic public places in Charleswood and across the city where cardiac arrest is more likely to occur —  such as gyms, indoor arenas, certain community centres, golf courses, schools and airports.

The statistics are eye opening — nearly 40,000 cardiac arrests occur every year in Canada, roughly one every 12 minutes — according to the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Manitoba.  

In announcing the new legislation, which took effect Jan. 31, Manitoba health minister Erin Selby said, "A cardiac arrest can occur anywhere at any time. Having a defibrillator close by can save someone’s life and this new legislation ensures busy public places will have one ready in case of an emergency."

If you aren’t familiar with an AED and how it operates, the device is approximately the size of a laptop computer and delivers an electric shock to restart a stopped heart.

AEDs are programmed to detect if a person is having an irregular heart rhythm that indicates potential cardiac arrest. AEDs offer step-by-step instructions for use, so training is not required and if an AED does not detect a shockable heart rhythm, the machine does not deliver a shock. Most importantly, the devices are safe and easy to use.

Heart Month has never been more relevant to me, as someone close to me recently experienced a major heart attack.

The stars were aligned that evening because it occurred in a public venue with an AED that was operated by good samaritan who was confident in its use. Those precious moments after the heart resumed beating bought paramedics time to do their work on the way to the hospital and ensured there was a happy ending to this story.  

According to the Heart and Stroke Foundation, there are currently over 2,200 AEDs registered in Manitoba. The organization hopes that the devices will one day be as commonplace as fire extinguishers.  

David Hultin is a community correspondent for Charleswood.

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