Difference between life and death could be this machine DC will now help you buy

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and members of D.C. Fire and EMS want AEDs to be widely distributed in the District. (WTOP/John Domen)

They’re easy to use and highly effective when they’re available. But some downtown D.C. blocks have more of them than entire neighborhoods east of the Anacostia. District leaders are hoping to change that.

If someone goes into cardiac arrest, the difference between dying and surviving can be an AED machine — an automated external defibrillator.

Mayor Muriel Bowser went to Anacostia to tout the city’s new AED rebate program.

“The program, which we’re calling the AED incentive program, will be open to small businesses, places of worship, small-unit apartment buildings and nonprofit organizations,” Bowser said. Those that are eligible can buy an AED and then apply for a rebate worth up to $400, which is about half the cost of an AED. Multiple purchases can lead to a $750 rebate.

Citywide, the survival rate from cardiac arrest is above the national average. But the numbers also show a noticeable racial disparity.

“The survival rate from cardiac arrest among African Americans is less than half that of whites,” said Dr. Robert Holman, the medical director for D.C. Fire and EMS, adding that some of the difference in AED use is “simply due to access.”

“Back in 2018, we discovered that in the three ZIP codes where 57% of that year’s out-of-hospital cardiac arrests occurred, there were only 19 publicly registered AEDs, whereas at the same time in downtown D.C., in a commercial area on a single block, there were 32,” Holman said. Those ZIP codes were 20019, 20020 and 20032.

Holman said someone in cardiac arrest who gets both hands-only CPR and an AED is eight times more likely to walk out of a hospital than when that doesn’t happen.

While this program is open to any eligible organization throughout the city, the District will be pushing this program especially hard in neighborhoods east of the river to help reduce that racial disparity.

“We all need to work together to increase bystander CPR, and the use of AEDs,” said Holman. “Be ready to save your neighbor’s life.”

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John Domen

John started working at WTOP in 2016 after having grown up in Maryland listening to the station as a child. While he got his on-air start at small stations in Pennsylvania and Delaware, he's spent most of his career in the D.C. area, having been heard on several local stations before coming to WTOP.

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