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Lost Battalion Hall short on heart help

The city has not adequately ensured that automated external defibrillators are correctly implemented and staff know how to use them at centers throughout the city, including a spot in Rego Park, according to an audit released by city Comptroller John Liu last week.

After examining Lost Battalion Hall in Rego Park and 11 other randomly selected recreation centers operated by the city Parks Department, Liu’s office found city officials did not fully comply with a five-year-old public safety law that mandated the placement of AEDs in public places where they would be accessible and available in emergencies.

AEDs are portable electronic devices that can be used to treat individuals in cardiac arrest. Out-of-hospital, sudden cardiac arrests are responsible for an estimated 160,000 deaths a year nationally, according to a number of studies assessing the effectiveness of AEDs.

“Hindsight is always 20/20, but preparing for an emergency takes consistency and organization,” Liu said. “Emergency devices like AEDs can be the deciding factor in split-second, life-or-death scenarios. To prevent worst-case scenarios, it is essential that Parks ensure this critical equipment is in top form and that the people who operate them are able to rapidly respond.”

A city Parks Department spokeswoman said it has worked hard to comply with the city law.

“Parks has gone well beyond the requirements of the law in deploying defibrillators, hundreds of parks employees have volunteered to be trained in their use, and all were found to be operational during the comptroller’s spot inspections,” the spokeswoman said. “We thank the comptroller for making a number of valuable recommendations that will help to improve our defibrillator program.”

At Lost Battalion Hall, Liu’s audit found there were sufficient AED supplies but incomplete response plans. These plans include a list of trained responders, procedures to follow in notifying responders of the emergency and how the trained responders would be dispatched to the site of the medical emergency.

Additionally, the center in Rego Park did not have adequate signage indicating where an AED is located and personnel infrequently or inadequately inspected the AEDs, according to Liu.

But Liu did praise the Parks Department for placing AEDs throughout recreation centers, which it was mandated to do by Local Law 20 of 2005.

“It is encouraging that Parks is willing to do the work to ensure they meet the Local Law 20 mandate,” he said.

City Council Minority Leader James Oddo (R-Staten Island), the author and prime sponsor of the law, said it was important to heed Liu’s report.

“I and my colleagues in the City Council fought for many years to pass a law that, if properly implemented, could save the lives of New Yorkers who suffer sudden cardiac arrest in a public place,” Oddo said. “The leadership of the Parks Department must demonstrate the same commitment to public safety. In the year 2010, AEDs are not some far-out technology. Training personnel to use them is not onerous and neither is conducting regular maintenance. It’s not a matter of technological divide, but simply a matter of commitment.”

The other centers included in Liu’s audit were the Sorrentino Recreation Center in Far Rockaway; Hunt’s Point and St. Mary’s recreation centers in the Bronx; Brownsville and Red Hook recreation centers in Brooklyn; Alfred E. Smith, Asser Levy, Jackie Robinson and North Meadow recreation centers in Manhattan; and George M. Cromwell and Greenbelt recreation centers on Staten Island.

Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e-mail at agustafson@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

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