As you walk through campus, you may notice Automatic External Defibrillators in most buildings. AEDs, in conjunction with CPR, are essential for treating heart-related emergencies such as sudden cardiac arrest. Though college-aged adults typically have a low risk of cardiac arrest, the consequences of not being prepared are literally a matter of life and death.
UCCS maintains 40 AEDs throughout the campus and in each of its police vehicles, but you may be surprised to learn that the only campus buildings that do not have AEDs are the dorms.
UCCS’ website lists 32 AEDs on campus in each public building. Colorado law does not require that AEDs to be placed in every public building, but institutions are “encouraged” to have them. So, while UCCS is not breaking any laws by not placing AEDs in dorms, it’s concerning that the administration has chosen not to have AEDs in buildings where students live.
According to the American Heart Association, 70% of out-of-hospital cardiac arrests occur in the victim’s residence, with only 18.8% occurring in public settings.
Cardiac arrest doesn’t discriminate by demographic; you don’t have to be elderly to experience it. While it is less common in college-aged adults, some common college activities like intense physical exercise, alcohol consumption and recreational drug use can put you at risk — not to mention genetic heart issues, undiagnosed health problems and high blood pressure.
A mantra my paramedic instructor drilled into his students was “time is tissue” because every minute your brain goes without oxygen, the chance of death or permanent brain damage increases by 10%.
If time is so critical to saving the life of someone experiencing cardiac arrest, why did UCCS decide to leave AEDs out of resident housing?
UCCS environmental health and safety manager Kristopher Parsons explained that there were conversations about placing AEDs in dorms; however, former emergency manager, Scott Halls, said that the demographics of the resident halls showed a low need for AEDs.
Parsons also feared the possibility of theft or tampering with the AEDs if they were left unsecured in the dorms.
Instead, they opted to keep AEDs out of dorms, include them in each police vehicle, and require all law enforcement personnel to certify CPR and AED use. UCCS always has a minimum of three officers on duty, and Parsons said, “[Police] can normally respond to an unconscious/unresponsive patient in campus residential areas within a few minutes.”
The high cost of outfitting the dorms with AEDs is also a consideration. A company quoted Parsons at $3,600 per unit, including the AED unit and an alarmed cabinet that could be monitored by UCCS police to deter theft and tampering.
With 15 dorm buildings at UCCS, that would cost $54,000 to include one in each dorm: not something UCCS could simply slide into their budget without students feeling the effects.
While I agree that college-aged adults are at low risk of sudden cardiac arrest, and the price to put them inside every building is high, I ask, what is the safety of UCCS’ resident students worth to administration?
I was surprised to find out that resident advisors at UCCS are not required to learn CPR or how to use an AED. This certification costs less than $60 and can be completed in three hours. Additionally, the Gallogly Recreation Center even offers its own CPR/AED class.
This certification gives graduates the confidence to know that if the time comes when they must perform CPR or use an AED, they can. If AEDs aren’t going to be included in dorms, the resident advisors should at least be required to know what to do in this situation.
When a patient needs CPR and AED treatment, they are dying. Not “hurt” or “injured,” but hanging in the balance between life and death, and every minute that goes by without this treatment drastically lowers the chance that their loved ones will ever see them again.
Leaving this critical treatment in the hands of UCCS police may reduce cost, but the “few minutes” it takes to get to the victim could mean that the student doesn’t survive the night.
Cost is a genuine concern. I don’t want to make it seem like it will be a simple thing to come up with over $50,000 in times when money is already tight. But I think the administration needs to look at where their priorities are and how residents feel about not having AEDs available.
My goal here isn’t to scare students into thinking they are at risk of cardiac arrest or shame the administration into outfitting dorms with AEDs. Instead, I hope to start a conversation about why the dorms are the only buildings where AEDs are not present and if the students there are comfortable knowing they are not present.