BU Today

Health & Wellness

The Power to Save Lives

Campus defibrillators make BU a HeartSafe community

Each year more than 300,000 people suffer from sudden cardiac arrest — their heart abruptly stops when the electrical impulses that control heartbeat malfunction — and 95 percent of them die, most within minutes.

Saving the life of a victim of sudden cardiac arrest requires immediate treatment with a defibrillator, a device that sends an electrical shock to the heart to help restore a normal rhythm.

Boston University has taken steps to increase the chances of saving lives by installing permanent automated external defibrillators (AED) in public areas on campus and training staff and students to use them and to perform CPR. As a result, the American Heart Association has designated BU a HeartSafe Community

“We know that with early response to heart attacks in the field, survival is greatly benefited,” says David McBride, director of Student Health Services (SHS). “I think that BU becoming a HeartSafe Community is an incredible service to both our faculty and staff and to the surrounding neighbors and businesspeople who are at risk of heart attack. BU will save lives with this venture.”

BU, along with Boston College and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is one of three local universities to be designated as HeartSafe communities. The University earned the HeartSafe designation after SHS, working closely with the BU Police Department and the staff at the Fitness and Recreation Center, conducted training in CPR and in operating the defibrillators and put the devices in public areas on campus.

The defibrillators talk users through the proper steps, making them easy to operate by almost anyone, McBride says. The devices can also detect whether a person has simply passed out or whether he or she needs a lifesaving shock. 

There are seven defibrillators at FitRec, two in Agganis Arena, one in the Case Athletic Center, one at the Track and Tennis Center, one in every BU police cruiser, one in the School of Management, one at the Boston University Theatre on Huntington Avenue, and another at the Boston Center for the Arts Stanford Calderwood Pavilion on Tremont Street, where the Huntington Theatre Company performs a couple of times a year, according to Raymond Levy (SAR’98, SPH’01), manager of emergency medical services at FitRec. 
Levy says swift action and accessibility to a defibrillator are key to saving lives. He would like to see the devices throughout campus, not concentrated mainly in the fitness and recreation areas in West Campus. Once an AED has been purchased, Levy’s office trains staff to operate it.

“For every minute that goes by, there is 10 percent less chance that a person can be resuscitated with an AED,” Levy says. “Two minutes doesn’t sound like much, but it can make a big difference.” 

BU modeled its response to cardiac emergencies after the plan implemented at Boston’s Logan International Airport. “We sat down with the Massachusetts Port Authority fire department and got an idea as to what they did and how they did it, and we fine-tuned it to make it fit for the BU community,” says Kevin Reen, a BUPD officer, who spearheaded the project. Reen, along with fellow officer Kevin St. Ives, pushed to get AEDs in all 10 cruisers so that the devices can be brought all over campus.

“As police, we are one of the first responders on scene, usually within two minutes of being called,” Reen says. “However, we want to use our resources at BU to train other members of the community to use the AEDs so that the lapse in response time is reduced, and when people call for emergency service there might be someone else just a second closer to the situation who can save a life.”

Meghan Noé can be reached at mdorney@bu.edu.