Toronto makes heart defibrillators available at rail stations

Posted on July 20, 2011

The Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) made Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) available in all of its 69 subway stations. The final 22 stations were equipped with the units earlier this month. The AEDs can be used by anyone in the event of a cardiac emergency.

Defibrillators are simple to use and can be accessed by anybody who encounters a medical emergency, such as a sudden cardiac arrest. These subway units were made possible in partnership with the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario and the Ontario Ministry of Health Promotion, and their partners.

The AEDs are installed within line of sight of a Collector Booth at every station. Each unit is encased in appropriately labeled, glass-fronted, white cabinets, 15 inches by 13 inches in size. Some stations are equipped with two units. To date, none of the AEDs in the system have had to be activated.        

The physical placement of defibrillator units was assessed by TTC staff and Toronto Emergency Medical Services (EMS) based on a combination of customer volume and proximity to a Collector Booth. Toronto EMS owns and maintains the AEDs. The units were provided to EMS by the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario.

Combined with the platform paramedics on duty during rush hours, the TTC is helping to fast track potentially life-saving response and treatment to more than 800,000 daily subway riders.

AEDs are used in combination with CPR to help restore heart rhythm when a person goes into cardiac arrest. Defibrillation, when used with CPR, can improve cardiac arrest survival by more than 50 percent if delivered in the first few minutes.

In 2010, the TTC experienced approximately 1,400 incidents of customers becoming ill or injured on subway trains or in subway stations. Of those, about 950 people (or 68 percent of incidents) required a trip to the hospital. Last year, the subway station with the most EMS calls was Bloor-Yonge.

The first unit was installed at Bloor-Yonge Station – Collectors Level on March 2, 2009. Last year, 47 stations had the units. The installation of AEDs at the remaining stations was completed this month.

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