NEWBURYPORT — The mayor has approved the installation of an automated external defibrillator at Plum Island Point after months of expressing opposition.
Over the past year, Plum Island residents working with the Plum Island Foundation raised enough money to buy and install two automated external defibrillators and attached landline telephones – one at Plum Island Center in Newbury and another at Plum Island Point in Newburyport.
Mayor Donna Holaday originally supported the idea of installing a defibrillator on Plum Island Point when it was raised last year, but backed out after hearing concerns from public safety officials, including fire Chief Christopher LeClaire, about potential security and safety issues. As a result, the first was installed at Plum Island Center in March, while the Plum Island Point AED was not installed.
But after hearing a change in opinion from LeClaire, Holaday has approved the Newburyport defibrillator and its installation is in the works.
LeClaire previously said he was concerned an AED could shift bystanders’ attention away from making a timely 911 phone call and that it could also present security or liability issues for the city.
But after attending a meeting with the City Council’s Committee on Public Safety earlier this month where he heard from members of the Plum Island Foundation and a representative for the defibrillator manufacturer, LeClaire said he feels much more comfortable with having the device available for use on city grounds.
And though he originally had concerns about the defibrillator being misused or vandalized, LeClaire said he now feels reassured because the device will be located on the side of the building shared by Plum Island Point parking attendants and lifeguards, where it will would in open view.
“Another concern, originally, was people accessing the unit and vandalism — that’s still a concern, but it will be out in public view where passersby can see it,” LeClaire said.
The landline attached to the defibrillator will connect users to public safety dispatchers who would give a code that unlocks the case so the device can be used in an emergency.
Holaday, who said she also had “visions of kids zapping each other on the beach,” said she feels more comfortable with the defibrillator’s security.
“I certainly feel better about it now, I’m pleased that our concerns have been addressed and that we can now move forward,” she said.
LeClaire still expressed some concern about the defibrillator delaying people from calling 911 during an emergency, and emphasized the importance of alerting local police and fire departments as a top priority, as well as performing CPR if necessary.
“The key to this is learning CPR. What you do after that with a defibrillator is great, but you have to notify the Fire Department right away,” LeClaire said. “Any delay in that phone call, whether it’s a medical emergency or a fire, exacerbates the problem.”
He said city officials are working on the project, and while there is no confirmed date when the AED will be available for use, he said it would be functional “hopefully soon.”
Staff writer Jack Shea covers Newburyport City Hall. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 978-961-3154. Follow him on Twitter @iamjackshea.