- Associated Press - Wednesday, August 16, 2017

DECATUR, Ill. (AP) - Don Putnam has a wife and two kids at home, with one on the way. He wanted to make sure he came home to them.

Putnam, an Ameren Illinois journeyman lineman based in Decatur who works with electric and natural gas on a daily basis, got together with a group of co-workers and asked that automated external defibrillators (AEDs) be placed on crew trucks.

Ameren Illinois agreed, and recently spent $300,000 installing the devices on crew trucks across Central and Southern Illinois, including nine trucks in the Decatur area. In the case of cardiac arrest, AEDs can apply an electric shock to re-establish a heartbeat.

“Just knowing they’re there is a wonderful thing and I’m glad we got them,” Putnam said. “I hope I never have to use them, or have them used on me, but it’s huge for my family to know it’s there.”

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, electrical power line installer/repairer is ranked the ninth most dangerous job in the U.S.

More than 350,000 people have heart attacks outside of a hospital every year in the United States and nearly 90 percent of them die, according to the American Heart Association. Outcomes are much better for those whose hearts were shocked right away with a defibrillator: Almost 60 percent live for at least a year.

Ameren Illinois has AEDs in its office buildings and had previously looked into installing them in its trucks, said Karen Boulanger, director of safety for Ameren Illinois. But the available technology couldn’t withstand extreme weather conditions - the battery would go dead when they got too cold.

But the latest in AED technology, Zoll AED Plus Fully Automatic Defibrillator, changed that.

“The primary reason we pushed so hard for this was the recommendation from our employees,” Boulanger said. “As a group, they came together and asked for this. This is peace of mind for them.

“Safety has evolved across many industries the last 20 years, and this is another illustration of that. We’re becoming smarter, better equipped and more prepared.”

All Ameren Illinois linemen, gas construction and gas journeyman workers, field engineering representatives and clerical workers are trained in first aid, CPR and AED operation. The Zoll AED Plus, though, makes it easier than past AED models.

“The machine will talk you through the CPR,” said Jake Dukett, Ameren Illinois gas/electric operations safety supervisor. “The pads are all in one piece. One flap goes on the upper right and one on the lower left, so there’s no way they can flip around backward. It lines them up right where it needs to be. It warns you when it delivers the shock. It’s taken all the guesswork out of it.”

The machine even performs a daily self-diagnostic test. Its pads and battery are expected to last five years, and a green check mark on its screen tells field workers the device is in working order.

Ameren Illinois’ decision to install the devices is a great model for other businesses to follow, said Carrie Skogsberg, Central Illinois communications director for the American Heart Association.

Skogsberg said the company’s decision is a step in the right direction for the heart association’s Workplace Health Solutions initiative.

“It’s something we’d like to see all businesses do,” she said.

The company has already seen just how effective the AEDs can be. In 2014, Mike Pulke collapsed and went into cardiac arrest at the company’s Mount Vernon Operating Center.

Several of Pulke’s co-workers used the facility’s AED and performed CPR until first responders arrived. He went on to make a full recovery and still works for the company as a gas control technician in Mount Vernon.

“My husband might not have survived if it were not for the quick thinking of his co-workers and the presence of an AED,” said Pulke’s wife, Carla.


Source: (Decatur) Herald & Review, https://bit.ly/2weQQnU


Information from: Herald & Review, https://www.herald-review.com

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