Mass. island residents raising money for AEDs

Plum Island residents are aiming to make their isolated island safer by raising money to install two AEDs and train community members on how to use them

By Rogers Dave
The Daily News of Newburyport

PLUM ISLAND, Mass. — One of the many advantages of living on Plum Island is the feeling of independence that comes from being separated from the rest of Newbury and Newburyport. But it’s that separation that can also make living there tricky, especially in a medical emergency.

With only one road to the island, residents can be cut off from emergency help when that route is closed because of bad weather unless fire engines, ambulances and police are placed on the island before a storm hits.

In addition to the nearest emergency responders being several minutes away, spotty cell phone service can make reaching them challenging at the worst possible moment.

With that in mind, residents — working with the Plum Island Foundation — are trying to raise $7,500 for two automated external defibrillators and two landline telephones to be installed on Plum Island Point in Newburyport and Plum Island Center in Newbury. The AEDs and phones would be placed inside waterproof, weatherized alarm boxes safe from theft.

The money would also go toward maintaining the boxes and training residents to use the AEDs and perform CPR.

“The data is out there,” registered nurse and Newbury resident Peggy Poppe said, when asked if the boxes would save lives.

The project has received the approval of officials from both communities, including Newburyport’s mayor, Newbury selectmen and the town’s police chief.

“As Newbury police chief, I am fully supportive of having public access to AED devices on Plum Island. AEDs save lives,” Chief Michael Reilly wrote in a letter April 27.

Poppe said the impetus for stationing AEDs on Plum Island came after a resident suffered a fatal heart attack last year and other residents frantically tried to help. At least one person attempted CPR but that was unsuccessful. When emergency responders arrived only minutes later, it was too late.

“It felt like a very long time before EMS arrived,” Poppe said, adding that the island’s emergency medical technicians were not to blame.

“In this particular case, it wouldn’t have made a difference,” she said.

Lynn Mather, another Plum Island resident leading the project, pointed to the recent fatal shark attack on a Cape Cod beach. Despite several people present when the Revere man was attacked, spotty cell phone service hampered efforts to summon help.

Mather and Poppe said they hope to raise much of the money from individual Plum Island donors along with area businesses.

Mather said they are reaching out to the Newburyport-based Swasey Fund for additional assistance. The Swasey Fund is a local education-oriented nonprofit organization.

Poppe said having a direct phone line also means direct access to a local dispatcher as opposed to being transferred to a regional one, which often happens when calling from cell phones.

The group’s efforts mirror those made by the Heart Safe Community initiative begun in Massachusetts in 2002 and now in states across the country.

The initiative supports survival from sudden out-of-hospital cardiac arrest events by employing a chain of survival tools such as widespread CPR instruction, public access to defibrillators, and resuscitation protocols for first responders and area hospitals.

Copyright 2018 The Daily News of Newburyport

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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