Eat'n Park tests heart devices, plans rollout in 2008

HOMESTEAD Pa. The Eat'n Park family restaurant chain says it is considering a systemwide rollout of potentially life-saving automatic external heart defibrillators, citing falling prices and positive test results.

"That's my plan," Eat'n Park's director of safety and security Bill Moore said when asked if the 76-unit regional chain would deploy AEDs systemwide in 2008 after recent tests of the devices in three restaurants.

Moore said falling prices are permitting the company to accelerate widespread deployment of AEDs to better serve its employees and guests, and in anticipation of legislation mandating such a move. He said that as recently as three years ago, the devices enabling first-aid givers to help stricken individuals restore their heartbeat to life-sustaining patterns cost as much as $6,000 or $7,000, but now are "under $1,000."

The full-service restaurant chain already invests in first-aid and cardio pulmonary resuscitation training for managers and has begun adding a 20-minute AED training component, Moore explained. He noted that door stickers alerting guests to the presence of an AED on-site carry very little cost.

"Thankfully, we haven't had to use one yet," Moore said of the AED's which, through voice prompts, guide users through the defibrillation process that can be lifesaving to people who become unconscious after their heart stutters. "Employee reaction has been great. Even though you do not need to be certified to use an AED, many employees are requesting certification. Just installing AEDs has really increased our safety awareness."

Proponents of AEDs say the devices eliminate worries about too much electricity being used or of someone's heart being shocked when the treatment isn't warranted. They do that by regulating the electrical output and by engaging only when an irregular heartbeat is detected, backers say.

AEDs are seen by some public safety proponents as important tools in the efforts to save lives. They say some statistical studies suggest that, on average, it takes 12 minutes for emergency medical services personnel, such as paramedics, to reach a stricken person, while death can occur within 10 minutes of the time an individual loses consciousness because of a heart problem.