Since 1997, The Glendora Police Department has saved 31 lives on emergency response calls thanks to a series of proactive steps.
In 1997, former Glendora Police Captain Leonard Pihlak had the idea to equip officers with Automatic External Defibrillators, also known as an AED. Philak had attended a Chief’s conference and initially had the idea to equip the fire department, which did not have AED’s at the time. The only AED’s were found on Squad Trucks, which are not at each fire station typically.
One tragic event that led to the idea was the passing of former Glendora Lieutenant Tim Crowther, who suffered a heart attack. Even though he was taken by a police car to the nearest fire station, they were not equipped with a defibrillator, which could have saved his life, where traditional CPR was simply not enough.
“I can’t help but think, Tim may still be around if the police or fire department had the ability to use the AED back then” said Pihlak.
Current Glendora Lieutenant Rob Lamborghini, who was a Sergeant back in 1997, was given the task to get the program up and running. One company at the time, Agilent Technologies, had a battery run mobile AED. Representatives for Agilent at the request of the department, demonstrated how officers in the field could use it to offer on the spot medical assistance at a scene. The ease of use with some initial certification was instantly apparent to police officials.
The issue then became the cost, as each unit was roughly around $3,500. This staggering amount compared to the budget, prevented the department from implementing the program which was unproven to most people, inside and outside of the department. Pihlak, wanting to find a way to get the units, felt strongly about putting officers in a position to better help.
“Getting AED’s made sense. If you ask someone to do a job you need to give them the tools to do that job.” he added.
The department inquired to Agilent representatives about them loaning four AED’s to them for a one month trial period, in hopes of showing the potential to save lives. Glendora is broken up into four districts for patrolling officers, so the units would be available in each district for most responding calls. The company came back with an offer not only to loan our department the four units for one month, but offered them a six month trial period. The reasoning from the company, which benefited our community, was that a month wasn’t a long enough sampling. Sure enough, within two months Glendora Police had saved two lives with the aid of the units.
At the time, Glendora was just the first police department in Los Angeles County, and only the second in all of California to have trained officers with AEDs in the field.
Currently, the police department’s response time is three minutes and 45 seconds on Code 3 calls. The police term Code 3 meaning that the responding officer has their full lights and sirens on. Often, police officers beat the fire department to calls by 60 to 90 seconds due to the sheer fact that they are already out patrolling. That response time can mean a favorable outcome in medical situations such as cardiac arrest if the officers are equipped with an AED according to Lieutenant Lamborghini.
“Each minute that goes by could represent about 10% less survival rate”, Lamborghini said.
The last save was over this last summer when officers, including Lamborghini, responded to a 19 year-old girl in full cardiac arrest. Using the AED, first responding officers were able to shock her and gain a pulse before the Fire Department arrived on scene.
The department also has six officers and one community service officer that are EMT certified. In addition to the training, officers carry self-reinflating resuscitation bags, known as Ambu bags, to help regulate breathing to subjects in distress. Paramedics on scene can then hook their equipment right up to the police department Ambu bags and carry on with CPR with no delay.
This series of measures, training and equipment our department has acquired is above and beyond what most departments possess. All LA County fire engines now carry an AED but most police departments still lack these defibrillators that have proven to be a major asset to the residents of Glendora.