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Safe & Secure - Life saving tools: easy to use, some difficult to find in downtown SLO

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San Luis Obispo -

When someone has a heart attack, every minute that passes the chance of survival decreases and that's where an automated external defibrillator, or AED, comes in.

These life-saving tools are kept in public places to bring the dead back to life, but how easy are they to find? Are they highly visible as they're supposed to be? We put these questions to the test.     

Back in 2010, San Luis Obispo's then-fire chief, John Callahan, had a heart attack while playing softball at Santa Rosa Park. Since then, his widow, Lynne, has set out to save lives.

"It was also a project that John had looked into and something we had talked about, so I decide to carry on his legacy by starting the John W. Callahan Safe Heart Project," Lynne said.
The goal: to get businesses and organizations equipped with AEDs. They are mobile devices that send an electric shock to the heart to try to restore a heart beat.

Complete with voice commands and step-by-step instructions, the machines are easy to use, but the hard part is getting them in public places where they are highly visible.

Ellery Conover of STAR CPR in SLO tracks exactly where AEDs are placed throughout the world.

"They're not readily available. What you can do is if you own an AED you can put a sticker on a front window or front door to let people know there is a life saving device there," Conover suggested.

Every minute that goes by a person's chance of surviving a heart attack decreases by ten-percent. With that in mind, I set out to see just how easy AED's are to find in downtown San Luis Obispo.

I started with the most public places:
- within 25 seconds, I found the AED sign and machine in the lobby of the county building
- it was also highly visible in the lobby of the library
- and you can't miss it walking into the city council chambers
- same with the chamber of commerce
- they are tucked away the courthouse, but within ten seconds security officers knew exactly where to find them

In fact, an AED was used to save a life at the courthouse back in 2012.

"I didn't hesitate. I knew every second mattered for this gentleman," said a security guard named Anthony in an past KSBY interview.

SLO City Fire has created a map and PulsePoint app to help locate AEDs in an emergency.

The Callahan Project helped to place 70 of them throughout the county. The map shows there are now two at the park where John Callahan had his heart attack, but when I checked on most downtown SLO locations something was missing.

There was no indication on the outside of the building an AED was inside.

When Lynne Callahan was asked whether it's important to have exterior AED signs, she replied, "Absolutely. The public walks by everyday, someone goes down in cardiac arrest, if there's a visible sign there, obviously it makes it more accessible."
She also said the AED kits come with stickers to put on windows and there are other types of signage available.

Of the eight AED locations we checked out downtown, none had exterior signs. In fact, three of the locations were incorrect:
Splash Café said there is no AED on site, despite what the city maps shows and the other two businesses, Tartaglia Realty and SLO Downtown Association, had moved locations, but they're still listed on the app. Lynne's organization's helped to place those two AEDs.

"It's something that should be reported to fire department or an EMS agency just so that someone is not sent there and there's nothing there," she said.

SLO City Fire Chief Garrett Olson said it's the responsibility of the private business owner to notify County EMS if their AED location changes.

Still, the app is a great resource in the event of an emergency.

Click here for a link to the PulsePoint app or here for STAR CPR's AED Finder app.

Also, Chief Olson, County Supervisor Adam Hill and the SLO Chamber of Commerce staff are now looking into getting stickers or signs for the exterior of their respective buildings.

We plan to follow up with them to see when that happens.

Also, the Callahan Project is on a hiatus right now until the non-profit can find another financial sponsor. If you'd like to help, contact Lynne Callahan at  lynnieg2003@yahoo.com.

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