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Health, Science & Tech

Pitt Hosting AED Scavenger Hunt

There are four automatic external defibrillators (AEDs) in the Pittsburgh City-County Building, and more than 70 on the campus of Carnegie Mellon University, but how many are in Allegheny County? That’s what the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Medicine wants to know.

The school is hosting the region’s first HeartMap Challenge, a public scavenger hunt to locate all of the county’s AEDs, which are small briefcase-sized electronic devices that can be used to help someone in cardiac arrest.

The goal is to build a registry for 9-1-1 dispatchers to inform callers of the nearest AED during a relevant medical emergency, but right now, no such database exists.

According to project leader and Pitt Research Instructor David Salcido, the devices haven’t been around long enough for a registry of that scale to be generated.

“AEDs are relatively new in the grand scheme of things,” Salcido said. “So really, public access defibrillation, which is really the phenomenon of placing AEDs in public places, is only maybe 10 or 15-years-old.”

He said the devices are also hard to track because almost anyone can install one.

“Foundations can pay for AEDs. They may come from emergency services,” he said. “It’s just there are so many players involved that really nobody’s been able to organize the locations of all of these things.”

Salcido said the scavenger hunt helps to get the public involved and raise AED awareness.

According to the American Heart Association, emergency services treat about 383,000 people for cardiac arrest before they reach the hospital every year, and fewer than 12 percent survive. Survival rates decrease by 7 to 10 percent for each minute that passes without defibrillation.

“While this is structured as a contest, and that’s kind of meant to get the public involved, people should still, regardless of the contest, be conscious of where the AEDs are in their community,” Salcido said.

According to the group CPR Nation, there are an estimated 1.2 million public AEDs throughout the U.S. and about 180,000 being installed each year.

Scavenger hunters can register online. The contest lasts until Oct. 31.

Cash prizes ranging from $50 to $5,000 will be awarded to the individual or team that finds the most AEDs.