TAMPA — Tampa police will be able to take on the role of life-saving paramedics under a plan to supply 100 police cars with portable heart defibrillators this year.
Rotary Club of Tampa members this week donated the first of the machines to Tampa police Chief Jane Castor, who placed it in the trunk of a patrol car for the benefit of media cameras.
"Here we go,'' she said. "One car's ready.''
Though she joked that "hopefully this will not be used on me,'' Castor expressed her gratitude to the club for launching a fundraising campaign to supply the machines to police, who often are the first responders to 911 calls. "We are quite certain that these will save a lot of lives in the city.''
In recognition of the Tampa club's 100th anniversary this month, president Wayne Critcher announced the $100,000 fundraising campaign to buy the 100 machines in light of the fact that Tampa public safety crews responded to 288 cardiac arrest calls in 2013 and 303 in 2012.
Critcher said the club will match all donations up to $40,000, enough to buy 40 of the $1,000 machines, and will ask corporations, foundations and individuals to help reach the $100,000 goal.
Rotarian Bill Gillen, who headed the effort called Rotary Project Lifesaver, said the easy-to-use machines will be vital when police show up before paramedics arrive.
"It's great if they can start the process and then turn it over to EMS once they arrive,'' Gillen said.
He said once potential donors learn about the project, they'll embrace it, "and we hope to be able to buy many more. I think there are almost 800 police cars.''
Castor said the department has few defibrillators now because they cost so much. "And we usually find that they're not where we need them at the time.''
Castor said the machines will be distributed to the department's three districts so that they can be quickly available for emergencies anywhere in the city.
Philip Morgan can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3435.