Posted on 5/27/2014 2:41 PM by Dan Guglielmi

Preparing for emergency situations is an essential part of a facility manager’s job. Ensuring that building management and security are properly trained to deal with crime, fire, dangerous weather, and other life-threatening situations is vastly important in safeguarding tenants. Equally, it is important that a building’s tenants and visitors understand how to benefit from these preparations should an incident arise. Although facility managers may know how to react in a number of hazardous situations, are they prepared to react quickly and effectively when it comes to one of America’s most prevalent killers? 

Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) is the leading single cause of death in the United States, claiming the lives of more than 400,000 Americans each year.  Caused by an electrical disturbance in the heart, SCA disrupts the heart’s rhythm causing a complete loss of heart function.  Unlike a heart attack, which generally comes with a number of recognizable symptoms, SCA tends to strike without warning and can happen to anyone, anywhere, at any time. In addition, the risk of SCA increases as we age, and with studies predicting the number of workers over the age of 65 to soar through 2020, the risk of an SCA occurring in a commercial building is not only very real, but increasingly likely.  With a national survival rate of less than seven percent, SCA is an epidemic that must be recognized and prepared for.

Despite the shockingly low survival rate, there is hope. If a victim is tended to and treated with Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) and shocked with an easy-to-use Automated External Defibrillator (AED) within three minutes of collapse, survival rates can increase to more than 70%. Considering survival rates drop 10% with each passing minute, time is of the essence when treating SCA. Even if a building is equipped with an AED, is it in an easily accessible location? Do security officers, management personnel, tenants, and visitors know where to find the devices? Have people been trained in proper response techniques?  Are the AEDs properly maintained?

When dealing with a SCA emergency, there is no room for hesitation. Preparation, training, and maintenance are crucial. Facility managers should ensure that a well thought-out Cardiac Emergency Response Program exists in their buildings – because should an emergency occur, wouldn’t you want to be able to save the life of a valued tenant or employee?

AED programs are not one size fits all. When designing a program for a commercial or residential building, there are often intersecting interests to be considered - ranging from the property owner to the site manager to the leaseholder. Professionals that understand the interplay between these groups of people, as well as the impact that differing contractual arrangements have on program deployment and management, will be able to help facility managers to create, implement, and maintain an effective program.

Program implementation begins with an assessment of the facility to determine how many AEDs are necessary to adequately equip the establishment and how many people should be trained. It is critical that the devices are placed in easily accessible locations with visible signage so that no matter where the emergency occurs –in the lobby or on the 30th floor – an AED is available within three minutes. Equally, it is important that regular checks are performed to ensure that the AEDs are in working order and that the building complies with laws and regulations. 

Affordable, third-party professionals can provide useful input and make implementing an AED program quite easy for building owners and managers.  Financial considerations are also modest, particularly in comparison to the benefits gained, including:

  • Enhances the brand. Property owners, managers, and developers must compete to secure new tenants and keep existing ones. AED programs add value to properties and drive tenant loyalty by proving to tenants that you not only value their business but also their wellbeing.  Equally, the positive brand impact of saving a life is unparalleled.
  • Mitigates liability.  With various cases around the country demonstrating the plaintiff bar’s contention that AEDs are now “standard of care,” liability is increasing for many types of locations.  As these arguments are pursued in the courts, numerous insurance companies are now suggesting that their policyholders implement AED programs.
  • Improves a building’s safety measures.  With SCA as the nation’s leading cause of death, the likelihood of someone falling victim when in a commercial or residential building outstrips the risk presented by other causes, particularly those which have been more traditional points of focus and attention, such as fire and violence.  Implementing an SCA preparedness program customarily requires much less effort and expense than preparing for other risks, and now forms an integral part of overall building safety. 

As facility managers are tasked with protecting each person passing through their doors, being prepared for America’s leading killer, SCA, is of paramount importance. The promising survival rates associated with AED use should encourage facility managers to take the necessary steps to protect and meet the expectations of their staff and their occupants and realize benefits to their brand and reputation.

Dan Guglielmi is the property practice leader of CardioReady.