Officers in Norwalk Have New Equipment and Training to Help in Emergencies

by Pierre Amanda

NORWALK – Norwalk’s police department has another tool to help residents in need.

   On Aug. 17 members of the department became certified to treat victims of cardiac arrest with a machine called an automated external defibrillator, which delivers an electric shock to a stopped heart in an attempt to start its beating.

   "Now they’re providing a key link in the chain of survival," said Norwalk Rescue Capt. Michael Wenger, who helped train officers Ron Downing, Doug Metzger and Sgt. Kirk Westvold for their state certification. Officer Mike Kienol will complete the process soon and the department’s new members are expected to receive their training soon after they finish at the police academy.

   Officers say the $3,175 machines, of which the department has two, will be worth every cent they cost the city.

   "If just one life is saved, who can put a price on that?" asked Downing.

   Norwalk’s police department is one of less than a dozen in the state, according to Westvold, trained to use the defibrillators. The West Des Moines and Pella police departments also use the machines.

   Norwalk’s goal is to always have at least one patrol car on duty equipped with a defibrillator .

   Wenger said automated defibrillators are needed in Norwalk because police officers are usually the first to respond to emergencies in the city, which has a volunteer emergency medical service unit and fire department. In the case of cardiac arrest victims, seconds may mean the difference between life and death.

   The computerized devices weigh about 10 pounds and include pads that can be placed on the chest and side of a person whose heart has stopped beating. The machine can determine whether a shock is needed, and if so, a verbal warning tells officers to administer the shock.

   Automated external defibrillators are becoming increasingly popular as awareness of them spreads. Wenger said major airports are starting to put them next to fire extinguishers, and public places like shopping malls and casinos are beginning to install them as a safety precaution.