An interview with John Zenios
The parliament of Cyprus was the first in the whole Europe to pass an AED law. It’s been over a decade now that there is a law in Cyprus, making the AED placement mandatory in various sectors.
This obligation is still active as of today.
We asked Mr. John Zenios, director of training, to explain to us, how was the law perceived and which sectors were affected by the law?
It’s a fact that back then, in 2008, to pass a law like this was a big surprise for the rest of the European Union. It made every country question their position to such an important issue.
The same surprise came from the medical sector here in Cyprus. Medical specialists were questioning the safety of the use of an AED from first aiders or other rescuers who were not medical professionals. Like every new thing, people question it, until they “see” or “hear” the results.
The law mainly affected places where large amount of people would walk in and out or gather in a day. That included places like supermarkets, malls and conference halls. But what we had seen, was that other sectors applied the law faster than others. Especially banks, gyms and hotels that were the first organizations to buy an AED and continually train their employees on its usage.
Did you have any complications or problems when you first started the AED trainings?
The first organized group for AED training that we had here in Cyprus was the Famagusta Dentist Association. It was a group of dentists and there was also a surgeon and a paediatrician.
Doctors from the hospitals were calling us just to tell us that it was wrong and inappropriate to teach dentists the use of the Automated External Defibrillator (AED).
Back then, it was not familiar to medical professionals, not just here in Cyprus but also in many other countries, that this equipment, the defibrillator, was meant to be used not only by medical staff but as well by trained individuals from the public.
This was one of the biggest problems we had to face while promoting our training programs for the defibrillator (AED).
During the same year (around 1999), I had a training at Athens Metro station. Doctors, even cardiologist were calling me and asking “Why do you train the Metro station staff? The use of the defibrillator is our job!” My answer to them was “Don’t be afraid, after training the public how to properly use a defibrillator, you are going to have more work to do. The ones that should be upset are the undertakers, as they will have less work to do. We have a few minutes to act and help somebody in a cardiac arrest, and you won’t be there as a cardiologist to help that person in need. You are probably going to be at your office examining patients. On the other hand, the Metro station staff would be a minute away from any cardiac arrest and these are the people that will make a difference in these life or death situations.”
In the first three months that the Metro station started working, the station staff resuscitated a victim from cardiac arrest and saved his life.
Nevertheless, we are glad that now, medical professionals and the public understand the benefits of having an AED nearby, even next to our house or an apartment building and at work where we spend some the most stressful hours of our lives.
So exactly who should have an AED?
The law of N. 110(I)2008 says that the AED devices should be placed in public places such as airports, ports, organized sports facilities, swimming pools, banks and hotels. Also, any public service, organization or private company in which more than 500 people are either employed or which people move in and out in any single day of the year, is obliged by the law to have an AED device available for any emergency.
But I say forget the law. We have many small companies, with less than 5 or 10 employees who come for frequent training
Why would such small companies buy an AED?
Its simple statistics. Without an AED the chances of survival, amount to less than 5%. If an AED is used within few minutes, the EU statistics show survival rates between 50%-70%. It’s a small
Investment, for preventing the leading cause of death, in Europe and Cyprus don’t you think?
What do you say to those who have an AED and never used it?
Plan for the worse
And hope for the best!
When I complete a training session I usually say “hope you never use it”. It’s one of the few things where people receive training and do not get to practice it afterwards.
That’s the point, to know, but hopefully not be required to use this knowledge.
At the same time is important to always be ready. Remember Murphy’s law: what can go wrong will go wrong.
The only way to counter this, is not to allow things to go wrong.
But how can this be prevented?
Simple, follow procedures. A procedure should tell you to inspect the AED and to train an adequate number of participants.
This will reduce the likelihood of something going wrong. Sure, it doesn’t eliminate it, nothing does. Though it ensures that each owner, manager and first aider have a clean conscious, by trying to do what’s right for others, as we would want others to do what is right for us.
How are organisations obeying with the law today?
Most serious organisations have the procedures in place and follow them to the letter.
Frequently the small organisations are the ones that don’t have either the correct safety culture or in some cases the funds to actually have an AED and train their people.
Today the price of an AED is similar to the price of an I-phone. Nevertheless, an AED will last more than a decade and will have less maintenance expenses.
What would you recommend to those who don’t have an AED today?
Firstly, the cost of a defibrillator device is not a big of a problem now as it used to be 10 years ago, meaning they are not as high – priced as before. Nowadays, in the eyes of everyone the price of life has become significantly more “valuable”. This is exactly the reason why companies invest more in the safety and take precautions as it is currently an essential part of the safety culture. Everyone hopes that it will never be needed, but at least when it will be needed, people will know that they had increased their likelihood of actually helping someone to the highest reasonable degree.
So yes, my recommendation is to invest in an AED and ensure that your people are adequately trained in using such a device as well as being able to provide the necessary first aid in case of a Cardiac Arrest.