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Putting AEDs in its grocery stores ‘made sense’ for Boyer’s

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Boyer’s Food Markets Inc. is investing tens of thousands of dollars to install an automated external defibrillator, a device that delivers electric shock to those in cardiac arrest, at each of its 18 stores.

Last spring, the company installed its first AED at the Boyer’s in Birdsboro, and since then has equipped its other three Berks County stores with the lifesaving device. It plans to place similar devices at the rest of the company’s 14 stores, according to Ann Marie Blashock, director of human resources at Boyer’s corporate office in Orwigsburg.

“If we save a life, it is worth the $30,000 investment,” said Blashock, noting the cost for placing AED devices at all of its stores, which are in several counties, including Schuylkill and Carbon.

Blashock said Boyer’s is the first grocery store chain in Berks County to buy AED devices, which it did a discounted price through the HeartSafe Berks County initiative formed in 2010 by Reading Hospital and the volunteer organization The Friends of Reading Hospital.

DIFFERENCE MAKER

The HeartSafe program, which has raised more than $1 million to put 550 AEDs in the hands of first responders and businesses throughout Berks County, is campaigning to put AEDs in all area grocery chains.

Dr. Michael Koslow, a cardiologist at Reading Hospital in West Reading, said the HeartSafe program wants to make AEDs at grocery stores as commonplace as fire extinguishers.

“Having a defibrillator in quick proximity is the difference between life and death,” he said.

HeartSafe reached out to several grocery chains in Berks, and Boyer’s is the first and only one to install AEDs, Koslow said.

“Boyer’s embraced the program to support their employees and their customers,” Koslow said. “We lose a number of patients every year to cardiac arrest incidents in food stores.”

HIGH-RISK LOCATION

Store managers at Boyer’s were trained on how to use the AED, which is accessible to anyone in the store. The device is user friendly, voice activated to offer instruction during the process and only works once a person’s vital signs are taken.

When an AED is used, it is then sent with the ambulance crew to the hospital, where data are collected and viewed by medical staff personnel.

Koslow said the HeartSafe program identified grocery markets as high-risk locations. The Friends of Reading Hospital initially focused on first responders such as police officers who often are first on the scene at an emergency.

CONCERN FOR CUSTOMERS

Blashock said Boyer’s saw AEDs as necessary.

“It made sense when we thought about who our customers are,” she said. “Elderly people, for instance, have a harder time getting around and may not leave their homes except to go grocery shopping.”

Efforts to reach several other grocery chains in Berks County were unsuccessful.

MONEY WELL SPENT

New York-based Wegmans Food Markets Inc., which has three stores in Lehigh Valley, also has AEDs in all 94 of its stores, as well as in its other facilities such as distribution centers.

According to Tammy Heintzelman, regional asset protection manager for Wegmans, the grocery chain has at least two devices in each of its locations, depending on layout and square footage. It started its AED program in 2012.

“If we’re able to help even one person, it’s money well spent,” Heintzelman said.

LIFESAVING RESULTS

Heintzelman said that even Wegmans stores under construction already have an AED on-site in the event a construction worker needs access.

“I think they should be in every public building. We’ve had positive, lifesaving results in situations where we’ve had to use them on customers and our own employees,” she said.

“It’s a minimal investment when you consider that you can’t put a price on someone’s life.”

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