Published: Jul 11, 2012 2:54 PM EDT

COLLIER COUNTY, Fla.- Collier County EMS and Fire Rescue and the Collier County Sheriff's Office have added a new information system to assist 911 dispatchers in helping callers locate life-saving Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) near sudden cardiac arrest victims.

Sudden cardiac arrest is a leading cause of death in the United States, killing more than 300,000 people yearly. Compact and portable, AEDs are designed for use by laypeople with little or no training to deliver a shock that can save a victim's life before paramedics arrive.

"The problem is that until now, publicly available AEDs are rarely used in an emergency because people can't see them and 911 dispatchers are unaware they are nearby," said Dr. Robert Tober, Collier County's EMS Medical Director.

"The new system automatically searches and contacts registered AED sites that have volunteered to respond to a sudden cardiac arrest event within 1,200 feet of such event. This system will automatically send lay responders and equipment to help save a life," said Collier County Assistant EMS Chief Walter Kopka.

To encourage the registration of all AEDs, Collier County EMS/Fire Rescue will partner with civic and other community groups to reach owners and managers of office buildings, restaurants, malls, gyms, recreational venues, churches, and other locations where AEDs may be available.

"We all know that AEDs save lives and that every second is critical during a cardiac event," said Sheriff Kevin Rambosk. "I encourage owners and managers of AEDs to join the registry and help us ensure that those in need receive treatment as quickly and efficiently as possible."

If you previously registered your AED with the county, you will receive a letter or e-mail advising you how to maintain the accuracy of your information. AED owners that did not register with the county should visit NationalAEDRegistry.com to register their AEDs at no cost. The National AED Registry also allows the user to schedule times in which their AED could be available should they fall into that 1,200 foot radius of a sudden cardiac arrest.

"With this system, we can make every AED in Collier County potentially 35 times more likely to be used in an emergency," Tober said.

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Collier County is one of the most progressive counties in the country when it comes to AEDs and sudden cardiac arrest treatment. While three to five out of 100 people in most large cities survive a cardiac arrest, Collier County far exceeds the national average.

The county's AED program is comprised of more than 1,700 AEDs at more than 700 locations throughout the county. An estimated 6,000 local residents have been trained to properly use the AED devices in emergencies.

House Bill 801, sponsored by Reps. Kathleen Passidomo and Greg Steube, which passed unanimously in the Florida legislature this past session and was recently signed into law by the Governor, made the new system possible. Prior to the passage of HB 801, while owners of AEDs could register their ownership with the local Emergency Medical Services Director and volunteer to take calls to come to the aid of an individual suffering cardiac arrest, due to privacy laws 911 operators did not have the authority to notify those AED owners that a call had come in from someone having a cardiac emergency. Thus, precious time was lost while the 911 operators dispatched EMS services to the scene of the emergency.

"HB 801 provides that owners of AEDs may register their ownership not only with the local Emergency Medical Services Director but also with the 911 system and further allows 911 operators to contact those private owners of AEDs who have volunteered to accept those calls that a nearby coronary emergency needed assistance," said Representative Passidomo.

For more information, contact Collier County EMS Assistant Chief/Interim Chief Walter Kopka 239-252-3740