Already robust network of life-saving devices has room for improvement

An automated external defibrillator is available downstairs at the Breckenridge Welcome Center. The town is buying 50 new units to place them with emergency personnel, in town buses and high-traffic areas across Breckenridge as a small group is pushing to improve the countywide AED registry.
Eli Pace /

On July 11, 2017, Silverthorne resident Jim Schultz suffered a major heart attack known as a “widowmaker” while playing pickleball with friends.

Schultz lost all consciousness during the heart attack, but lucky for him, one of his friends was Lori Miller, former chief of the Red, White & Blue Fire Protection District with almost 30 years of experience as a first-responder.

As quickly as Schultz fell ill, Miller began performing CPR and coordinated a life-saving effort that came full circle when a nearby tennis instructor radioed the Silverthorne Recreation Center for an automatic-emergency defibrillator and lifeguards came running.

“There isn’t a better feeling,” Miller told the newspaper after helping save Schultz’s life. “The system came together and worked the way it was supposed to work.”

The idea that a readily accessible AED and quick thinking could save a life isn’t hypothetical, as the devices have been credited for saves not just in Silverthorne, but other towns in Summit County, as well.

Now, efforts are underway to improve the countywide network of AEDs, which is already fairly substantial considering what’s available in the public sphere, but still has room for improvement.

In 2005, a federal grant helped the county purchase 180 AEDs to put them in law enforcement vehicles, public buildings and other locations. Even though the federal funding has since run dry, more than 160 of those units still exist in the countywide registry, maintained by LifeMed Safety, and dozens more are reportedly on the way.

That’s because last year Breckenridge Town Council put $70,000 down for the purchase of 50 new AEDs this year. The units will be spread across the town core, put on all town buses, inside Breckenridge police cars and at busy public spaces, like the Blue River Plaza, public parks and Breckenridge golf courses, in addition to replacing 17 older units approaching the end of their lifespan.

Some of the new AEDs will also be posted on alarm boxes and outdoor settings, said Breckenridge Town Clerk Helen Cospolich, who noted the town has ordered seven weather-insulated cases for these installations.

“We’re pretty excited, and we think this is going to be a pretty big initiative,” she said, adding that Breckenridge will be getting the same AEDs Summit County has so they should dovetail nicely into the county’s network.

Checking in with the other Summit County towns, Dillon has AEDs in its patrol cars, at town hall and at the marina. Police Chief Mark Heminghous said Dillon is also working on getting more units permanently placed in other town facilities, such as the amphitheater and public works buildings.

Like Dillon, Silverthorne also has AEDs in all its police cruisers, at town hall and other town facilities, including both its public works buildings on Brian Avenue and Highway 9 on the northern end of town.

Altogether, Silverthorne has 19 town-placed AEDs with three at the rec center and others at the Performing Arts Center and Joint Sewer Authority north of Silverthorne Elementary School. The town is also exploring one for Rainbow Park, where Shultz had his close call.

Not to be left out, Frisco also has a wealth of AEDs with units at town hall, the Historic Park and information center. Frisco also has AEDs at the marina, Nordic center, day lodge and the public works building, as well as its police vehicles.

While there’s a rather robust network of AEDs in Summit County, that doesn’t mean the system can’t get better.

During a recent meeting featuring officials from local ambulance services, county government and Breckenridge Grand Vacations — one of the county’s largest employers who’s especially interested in heart health — they decided that ensuring the county’s AED registry is as accurate as possible should be the first step.

This means getting all of the AEDs across the county in the system, said Deb Edwards, program manager for BGV’s philanthropic wing BGV Gives. While the towns’ and county’s AEDs are pretty well accounted for, what exists in the private sector is not nearly so concrete.

“That’s what we’re hoping to uncover,” Edwards said. “We just felt like the registry list has to be as accurate as we can make it because if someone were to call 911, we want the operator to be able to say there’s one at this location.”

The group expects to launch a public campaign featuring advertisements, mailers and smaller questionnaires geared toward local businesses and their AEDs this spring.

With the spring roundup, the group hopes to map out all the AEDs in Summit County, which will allow them to analyze their locations and identify any coverage gaps in the system.

After that, Edwards said, they will look at educational pieces, in addition to looking for ways to address long-term maintenance and a replacements, as AED pads and batteries do eventually wear out.

Hoping to give local businesses breathing room to get through winter tourism, Edwards said they won’t roll out the campaign to get all the AEDs across Summit County registered until April.

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