Officials: San Diego's AED program has saved almost 200 lives over 20 years

Project Heart Beat has placed more than 9,000 defibrillators citywide

David Hernandez
The San Diego Union-Tribune

SAN DIEGO — San Diego is celebrating the 20th anniversary of Project Heart Beat, a program that has placed more than 9,000 automated external defibrillators — AEDs — citywide, officials said Monday.

AEDs deliver an electric shock to victims of sudden cardiac arrest. The portable devices, especially in tandem with CPR, help keep victims alive until they can receive further medical treatment.

San Diego Project Heart Beat is a city program that works to make AEDs accessible citywide to save lives through early defibrillation.
San Diego Project Heart Beat is a city program that works to make AEDs accessible citywide to save lives through early defibrillation. (The San Diego Foundation)

The AEDs placed around San Diego as part of Project Heart Beat have saved almost 200 lives, city officials said. The devices are placed in private and public areas, including the San Diego International Airport and city and county buildings.

"When cardiac arrest happens, every second counts," program manager Maureen O'Connor, an emergency medical technician with the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department, said in a statement. "Quick recognition, swift response and having an AED nearby can be the difference between life and death."

O'Connor works with others to educate San Diegans about how to save people experiencing sudden cardiac arrest.

Officials said the program, launched in November 2001, aims to make AEDs as accessible and ubiquitous as fire extinguishers. The initial goal was to place 250 AEDs around the city before the 2003 Super Bowl, which drew countless out-of-town spectators to San Diego. The program surpassed the goal, with nearly 800 AEDs installed at the time.

"We are very proud to celebrate this milestone anniversary with San Diego Project Heart Beat," San Diego Fire- Rescue Chief Colin Stowell said in a statement. "Project Heart Beat has made a tremendous difference in saving lives by giving San Diegans the tools and education they need to properly respond in the event they are with someone who experiences sudden cardiac arrest."

Officials described Project Heart Beat as a nationally and internationally recognized program that has been replicated in cities across the U.S., including Miami, Nashville and Minneapolis.

In April of last year, the City Council approved a five-year deal with AED Brands, LLC, granting the company promotional and sponsorship rights for Project Heart Beat. The company replaced Cardiac Science, which had sponsored the program since its inception.

©2021 The San Diego Union-Tribune

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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