HENRICO COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — Next time you’re in a Henrico County park, keep your eyes peeled for a big, bright yellow box. These life-saving machines are going up all across the county and it’s largely thanks to an unexpected source.
Most people have seen a classic automated external defibrillator — or AED — machine at some point in their lives. They’re often up in schools, offices and emergency centers.
Although Henrico County’s new, bright yellow, special-ordered, weather-controlled AED’s might come as a surprise, Craig Collins — an environmental health and safety coordinator for the county — explained that just like the traditional mechanisms, they’re very easy to use.
“They actually will talk to you,” Collins said. “So, language is not an issue. Everything has pictograms and symbols.”
Henrico County Board of Supervisors representative Tommy Branin said the mission to bring them to every Henrico County park started with concerns from a specific group — pickleball players.
“They were concerned because there had been a death that they had heard about in, I think, Florida,” Branin said.
It seems like every day, more and more people continue to dip their toes into this popular cardiovascular workout. Everyone wants to take care of their heart health, and for some, that means trying an aerobic exercise like pickleball.
However, with that increased activity could come an increased chance of a medical emergency. Officials explained that — partially due to the sports’ demographic and high exertion level — players can be put at a heightened risk of sudden cardiac arrest.
“The more instant access we can have to this type of equipment, hopefully the better off the outcomes will be for the individuals,” Collins said.
Officials confirmed 11 units have already been installed. Those were prioritized based on factors like activity in the area, estimated usage, proximity to other available AEDs, etc. The county plans to add just over 50 outdoor units in total.
When a cardiac emergency happens, seconds — and access to an AED — can be the difference between life and death. Therefore, the machine keeps the process simple so the everyday citizen can help, while emergency responders are on the way.
A user of an AED should simply call 911, tell them the emergency’s location and responders will provide a code to allow access to the yellow box. The units cost about $1,800 to $2,400 a-piece and Branin said they’re worth every penny.
“When you look at the cost of something that can save someone’s life, how can you put a price on that?” Branin exclaimed.
There isn’t an official timeline for when this initiative will be complete, but the county plans to have one accessible at every park.