“I’m not afraid of death; I just don’t want to be there when it happens.”

Posted: August 27, 2015    |   Will Matty

Woody Allen has the right idea! Where death happens is varied, of course, but we find that Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) is often underestimated in its scope and impact, and misunderstood in the existing capabilities to combat it. Some perspective on the number of SCA deaths relative to other causes of death can provide fodder for a discussion around resources and dollars being spent and the potential for impact in saving lives.

A report from the Institute of Medicine released this summer, estimates SCA deaths at 600,000 per year in the United States. While 600,000 deaths per year, or 1,644 deaths per day, certainly qualify as an epidemic, it is hard to appreciate just how significant that number is in a vacuum.

Active Shooter incidents have been featured in the press lately and by news coverage standards, it can seem like they are an everyday event. However, according to a recent US Department of Justice FBI investigation there were 160 separate Active Shooter incidents in the US from 2000 to 2013 killing a total of 486 people. That is an average of 35 deaths annually. There are three and a half times (3.5X) more people who die from SCA in one day than the total number of active shooter deaths over the past 13 years!

How about terrorism? A 2013 article by The Washington Post listed Nine facts about terrorism in the United States since 9/11 and stated that 5,270 Americans have lost their lives from terrorism in the US from 1970 to 2011 – the largest single event being September 11th, 2001 when 2,996 Americans lost their lives. In comparison, there were over 100 times (100X) more deaths last year from SCA than the total number of terrorism deaths over a 40-year period.

Other unique causes of death are listed below for some perspective to SCA, Active Shooter, and Terrorism:

  • SCA – 600,000 deaths annually
  • Active Shooter – 35 deaths annually (2000-2013)
  • Terrorism – 126 deaths annually (1970-2011)
  • Bee / Wasps – 58 deaths annually (2001-2011)
  • Lightning – 90 deaths annually (1959-1994)
  • Television / Furniture / Appliances – 27 deaths annually (2000-2010)
  • Dog Attacks – 33 deaths annually (2005-2014)

While planning for the above may be difficult in some instances like lightning and bee stings, it’s proven that effective Cardiac Arrest emergency preparedness can yield a 10-fold improvement in survival rates. Current Cardiac Arrest survival rates are about 7% but if a victim receives CPR and an AED within 3 minutes, survival rates can exceed 70%.

Such a potential improvement in the survival statistic of an epidemic would be worth almost any price. Imagine the prevention and response expenditures related to the other causes of death above and then consider that a complete AED program (with AEDs, CPR/AED training, and program management to assure liability protection) costs less than $1.50 a day for a typical retail location.

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