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Press Release

Contra Costa Schools to Get Defibrillators During American Heart Month

February 9, 2010

When 10-year-old Bret Douglas collapsed on his San Ramon driveway September 20, his family sprung into action. Within minutes, paramedics had Bret hooked up to a defibrillator and on his way to becoming one of the few who survive sudden cardiac arrest.

Success stories like Bret's are the driving force behind a recent campaign that will start putting automated external defibrillators (AEDs)—devices that restore the heart's rhythm—in several Contra Costa schools this month, which is American Heart Month.

"His brother rushed inside and called 911 while his father and a neighbor performed CPR," said Bret's mother Stacey Douglas, who is also a firefighter. "CPR followed by an AED can save lives."

Since September, there have been more cases of sudden cardiac arrest than is normal. In many cases a defibrillator is not used. Pam Dodson, the prehospital care coordinator for Contra Costa Emergency Medical Services, said a person's chance of surviving sudden cardiac arrest is improved if there is a nearby AED and someone to use it.

"A person's chance of survival decreases by 10% for every minute that passes," she said. "Anyone can use an AED. It has verbal commands that tell you what to do at each step."

Dodson is working with American Medical Response with hopes of increasing the survival rate of sudden cardiac arrest in Contra Costa. "Our contract with American Medical Response requires it to place 25 AEDs throughout the county each year," she said. "In the past we worked with libraries, senior centers and community centers. We are now focusing on schools."

CPR and AED programs in schools familiarize students with sudden cardiac arrest. Dodson said what is learned in schools will spread to friends and family members and be useful later in life.

Dodson expects to equip all high schools in the Mount Diablo Unified School District with the devices. By the end of the month devices will be installed at Northgate and Carondelet high schools. In addition, 10 devices will go to the Pleasant Hill Police Department for patrol cars and another 28 will be installed throughout the Contra Costa Community College District.

"The bottom line is people need to be aware about sudden cardiac arrest," Dodson said. "It is the No. 1 killer in the United States."

To find out more about Emergency Medical Services in Contra Costa or to find a CPR class, visit

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Press Contact
  • Pam Dodson
  • 925-313-9547