Smithtown officials will allow automatic external defibrillators at town parks, nearly 18 months after a local youth sports organization donated a device.
An automated external defibrillator, or AED, is a portable device used to quickly help diagnose life-threatening cardiac arrhythmias and apply electrical therapy to re-establish normal rhythm in the heart.
Town board members unanimously approved a resolution on Nov. 5 to accept two AEDs donated by the Kings Park Youth Athletic Association and Northport-based Louis J. Acompora Memorial Foundation valued together at nearly $3,000 for use by certified people at town parks. Its actions follow those of other towns on Long Island and communities around the country.
"I really think that we should have them on site. It should be in the parks," said Councilman Robert Creighton at the meeting. "We have them in town hall; we should have them where kids are."
In April 2012, John McQuaid, a trustee on the athletic association's board, questioned the denial of his request to donate and install an AED at Kings Park Memorial Park.
"It was cost-prohibitive and operationally very difficult for us to make sure that each coach had access to it for every game and every practice," said McQuaid in an interview. "We have over 60 baseball and softball coaches . . . we can't afford to buy 60 AEDs."
At the time, Town Attorney John Zollo said the town could be liable and sued if the devices were vandalized and malfunctioned. Zollo also voiced concern about potential theft.
The town accepted KPY's donation in May 2012, but modified its policy this month allowing organizations to donate AEDs. The update requires four people to be certified in operating the devices if they plan to use them in town fields, Zollo said.
"It alleviated concerns about the potential liability of the town," he said. "There's a trend across the country to put these on fields so in case of emergency, they're right there."
AEDs will be secured inside the attendant's room at Kings Park Memorial and Flynn Memorial parks during the normal sports season, said Chuck Barrett, town parks director. "When there is a scheduled event for the field . . . we have attendants on duty at that time and the building would be open," he said.
The devices are also located at Smithtown's golf course, senior center and each of its four beaches, officials said.
John Valentine, town director of public safety, said his office services AEDs, and will include donations in its existing maintenance program. "We believe that AEDs definitely save lives," Valentine said.
Karen Acompora, founder and president of the memorial foundation, knows that sentiment. Her son, Louis, died in 2000 after being struck in the chest by a lacrosse ball he attempted to block as a Northport High School goalie.
"Having AEDs available should be included as a standard of care and recreational parks should not be exempt," she said.
AED to check heart rhythm
An automated external defibrillator (AED) is a portable device that checks the heart rhythm. If needed, it can send an electric shock to the heart to try to restore a normal rhythm. During abnormal heart rhythms, called arrhythmias, the heart can beat too fast, too slow, or with an irregular rhythm. Some arrhythmias cause the heart to stop pumping blood to the body. These arrhythmias cause sudden cardiac arrest -- a condition in which the heart suddenly and unexpectedly stops beating. When this happens, blood stops flowing to the brain and other vital organs. Each minute of sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) leads to a 10 percent reduction in survival.
Source: The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health