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Dishing out SCA preparedness - Sudden Cardiac Arrest
Today's Restaurant Internet Exclusive
Thursday, 26 December 2013 21:43

SCA HPBy: John Ehinger

It’s a busy Saturday night in your restaurant when everything stops. Wait staff and diners hear the words that cause instant panic—“HELP! He’s not breathing!”

If it isn’t a choking incident, you are likely facing a Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) emergency.  The first thought is to call 911 and wait for EMS, but as SCA survival rates decrease by 10 percent with each passing minute, what else can and should be done? Do you know? Does your staff?   

If the answer is “no,” you are not alone. Despite being the leading cause of death in America, killing 383,000 people last year alone, SCA remains an often unrecognized health risk.

SCA can strike anyone, anywhere, at any time, without warning—and with Americans dining out between four and five times per week, the question isn’t if an SCA will strike, but when. With the U.S. population aging and more than 1/3 being obese, understanding the risks as well as preparing your restaurant with an effective cardiac emergency response program is now more important than ever.  

You want your restaurant to make the news for the right reasons, and if you want to safeguard your establishment - including its patrons and reputation - here are a few things you should know.

Using the Right “Utensils”
Research and real-life scenarios show that by intervening with CPR and employing an Automated External Defibrillator (AED) within three minutes of collapse, bystanders—including you, your employees and even your diners—can increase survival rates nearly nine-fold. Lightweight and portable, AEDs are easy to use and provide step-by-step voice and visual prompts, giving anyone from the bus boy to the general manager the tools necessary to save a life.  

As noted previously, when it comes to combating SCA, time is of the essence.  This makes AED placement another main ingredient to any cardiac emergency response plan.  By properly installing and maintaining an easily accessible AED in your restaurant, you give an SCA victim a better chance of survival and quality of life —especially considering brain damage can begin in as little as four minutes.

Knowing More Than the Soup Du Jour
It is essential to remember that it’s not an AED that saves lives; it’s the people using it. Thus, to implement a successful SCA response program, properly training staff and informing customers of an AED’s availability is vital.  

In an industry where employee turnover is high and staff schedules change daily, it is necessary to make sure a trained staff member is always on the schedule.  Therefore, incorporating AED training, along with instruction on CPR and the Heimlich maneuver, into new-employee onboarding will eliminate the question of, “is tonight’s staff prepared?”  Furthermore, providing employees with comprehensive CPR and AED training will not only guarantee they are prepared to handle an SCA emergency while at work, but after their shift is over.

In addition to employee training, having clear signage denoting AED locations is crucial to ensuring that that anyone entering your restaurant sees that an AED is available. Although the hope is an SCA emergency never occurs, ensuring both staff and diners are aware that a device is available and exactly where it is located will offer peace of mind that help is always close at hand.

Getting Prepared is on Special
Keeping costs under control is central to any business.  Most restaurants might see this type of preparation as cost prohibitive—but in fact, it’s not.  Implementing an SCA emergency response program is probably more affordable than you think. AEDs typically cost less than $1,000 per device, and with most restaurants requiring only one AED, all-in program costs—including securing and maintaining a device as well as staff education and training—can average less than $3 a day, or the cost of an appetizer.  

A Final Note
The words “Help! He’s not breathing!” don’t have to paralyze your restaurant, leaving bystanders unable to react and creating a traumatic, lasting memory for patrons and employees. Rather, taking the necessary steps to implement an SCA emergency response program (including AED installation and training) can ensure your employees—and diners—are well equipped to respond quickly in an SCA emergency and save a life. 

John Ehinger is the CEO of CardioReady, a suburban Philadelphia company, which offers organizations turn-key preparedness and training solutions aimed at improving survival from Sudden Cardiac Arrest.   For more information, visit

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