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Harvard Recognizes SF For Life-Saving Program

September 25, 2012, 4:59 PM by Ben Dunsmoor

Harvard Recognizes SF For Life-Saving Program

A local program has saved one life every month since 2001, and that success rate is getting national attention.

Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government is awarding Sioux Falls Fire Rescue for its public access defibrillator program.

You've likely heard the stories about the lunch-box sized devices that can help save lives at a moment's notice. AEDs, or automatic external defibrillators, have proven priceless time after time.

Jon Soderholm, Avera Heart Hospital President and CEO, started leading the charge to get AEDs in nearly every public place and business in the region more than ten years ago.

Now there are more than 1,200 in Sioux Falls and surrounding communities.

"When you talk about a save a month, those are people you see every day. They're not old people. They are young, energetic people that just had a heart problem that without the defibrillator, they probably would have not survived," Soderholm said.

Sioux Falls Fire Rescue announced Tuesday that the public access defibrillator program has been recognized by Harvard University as a model for other communities to study.

"The big winners are other communities that are trying to get these programs off the ground. They can come to us and say, 'What are some of the key things that we can do that you've already jumped those hurdles?'" Sioux Falls Fire Chief Jim Sideras said.

"It's amazing that some people in Boston would say, 'Hey Sioux Falls, we've done something that would be recognized,' but when you look at it, I think it may be the biggest defib program in the country," Soderholm said.

That's why the devices that have become common on the walls and in the halls in this area could soon be having an impact in other parts of the country.

There were nearly 1,000 applicants from across the country that applied for the award from Harvard University.

Two winners are picked from every state.

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