A study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) found people living on the higher floors of high-rise buildings had a lower survival rate in case of a heart attack, compared to those living on the lower floors. Researchers believe the difference in survival is due to the increased response time between the call to 911 and the time to reach patients living on higher floors.
Ian Drennan, a paramedic with York Region Paramedic Services and a researcher with Rescu, Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, St. Michael’s Hospital, Toronto, with coauthors wrote:
“As the number of high-rise buildings continues to increase and as population density rises in major urban centers, it is important to determine the effect of delays to patient care in high-rise buildings on survival after cardiac arrest.”
Researchers analyzed 7842 cases of out-of-hospital cardiac arrest. Of them, 5998 (76.5%) occurred below the third floor and 1844 (23.5%) occurred on the third floor or higher.
Of the 5998 (76.5%) people living below the 3rd floor who had cardiac arrests, 252 (4.2%) survived the arrest, but only 48 (2.6%) of the 1844 people living above the 3rd floor survived.
When analyzed floor by floor, the researchers found a survival rate of only 0.9% in those living above the 16th floor (2 of 216) and no survivors (0 of 30) in those living above the 25th floor.
The researchers noted that the use of automated external defibrillators (AED) was very low.
They also reached a conclusion that further a patient with cardiac arrest is from the ground floor, the lower the survival rate.
The researchers outlined several solutions to decrease time to patient contact, such as giving 911-initiated first responders sole access to elevators for emergency service without public interference. This would be similar to the access of firefighters have during a fire. They also suggested emergency alerts to building staff before arrival of the first responders and better placement of defibrillators to increase bystander use.