Posted by Bob Trenkamp on 07/27/2013

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Photo by Twitter user SCG703.

All Metro stations are supposed to be equipped with automated external defibrillators, lifesaving devices that can shock a person's heart back into a normal rhythm. But as one advocacy group recently pointed out, some aren't in the public boxes marked "Emergency Defibrillator."

A great blog post by Sabrina Wilber of the Metropolitan Transit Advocacy Group, a recently launched group focused on Metro rider safety and representation started in part by Chris Barnes of Fix WMATA, first raised the issue.'

I noticed this last weekend that the AED box at Gallery Place/Chinatown F St entrance was empty. So I took a picture and tweeted it at WMATA, but never received a response. MetroTAG members attended the WMATA Riders’ Advisory Council meeting last night to express their concerns about missing AED units. RAC members asked MetroTAG to double check Wednesday night and email them. After the meeting, four MetroTAG members went to Gallery Place to get an update. What we found was even more shocking than just an empty box.'

MetroTAG found the box right away, on the main level at the Verizon Center F St entrance just past the fare gates to the right of the station manager’s kiosk. It was still empty so we went over to take a couple of pictures.

While we were taking the pictures, a station manager came up to ask if we needed anything. I told him right away what we were looking for. The station manager responded by showing me the AED - behind the glass in the station manager’s kiosk. I asked why it wasn’t in the big white box labeled AED, available for public use if needed. First, he wanted to know where I was seeing the big white box. This turned into, “If someone needs the AED they should come and get me.” I then posed the hypothetical question: What if someone needs the AED and they go to the clearly marked white box and it’s not there and you happen to be helping a customer on the other side of the gates with your back turned or are simply not around? What is the general public supposed to do then? We don’t know the AED’s are in the kiosk - there are no signs or other indications letting the public know where they can find it. The response I got was, “Why does the general public need access? They don’t know how to use them.”

MetroTAG reports that riders have informed them of empty AED boxes at seven stations.

A Metro spokeswoman explained to DCist why some of the AEDs have been moved from the boxes to the station kiosk.
"In order to maintain the functionality of the devices and due to certain high traffic areas where AEDs have been tampered with, the equipment was moved into the kiosks at many stations to ensure they remain available for passengers in an emergency," Caroline Lukas says. "Monthly inspections of the devices continue to ensure their operability."

When asked why there wasn't signage at the Gallery Place station, Lukas says, "Signage had been mounted at those locations indicating the change, but it appears that at some locations that signage has been forcibly removed. We are in the process of replacing them."

In April 2012, the AED at the Pentagon Metro station failed to work on a 51-year-old rider suffering from a heart attack. Eugene McCrea was later pronounced dead at a Virginia hospital, and an uncharged battery was blamed for the AED failure. At the time, not every Metro station had an AED.

In May, a Metro employee was charged with stealing 13 AEDs and selling them on Internet auction sites.

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