Bill Huffsteder wishes CEOs knew what he knows: When it comes to cardiac arrest in the workplace, time is of the essence. Heart attack victims have the best chance for a positive outcome if an automated external defibrillator (AED) is used within the first three to four minutes of arrest.

But realistically, Huffsteder says, paramedics arrive on the scene six to 12 minutes after a call comes in from an office tower. Huffsteder, CEO of NKH LifeSafety in Springdale, spent three decades as a Greater Cincinnati firefighter and paramedic and experienced firsthand the frustration of losing many heart attack victims. In his years as a paramedic, he saw a positive outcome only about 10 percent of the time because medical personnel couldn't reach patients quickly enough.

"Today, that story has changed," he says, in part due to his company's Medtronic AED. Now, heart attack victims can be treated by co-workers in those crucial first few minutes.

Some 450,000 adults and 7,000 children each year suffer a heart "short circuit" that may be reversed by the shock provided by an AED. Defibrillation is the most effective treatment for heart attack victims, according to the American Heart Association.

"Ease of operation is key to this equipment," says Huffsteder of the medical units, which weigh about 8 pounds and are not much bigger than a lunchbox. Even untrained 7-year-old children have successfully operated Medtronic AEDs, which offer a simple picture-based approach that quickly leads users through a series of prompts. "Ordinary people can save lives with extraordinary technology," he says.

Fifth Third Bank, one of NKH LifeSafety's clients, has placed 250 AEDs in its high-rise and high-density facilities. Additionally, NKH LifeSafety has trained more than 1,000 bank employees on the units, with a goal of training 10 percent of the nationwide work force, according to Paul Garbon, Fifth Third safety manager.

Increasing interest in AEDs has also filtered to individuals. Huffsteder's partner, Bill Neal, has an 80-year-old father who refuses to get on the golf course without an AED securely perched on his golf cart. The reason? He's already seen two of his fellow geriatric golfers fall over dead with a heart attack. Now all the father's elderly buddies want to ride on his golf cart, just in case.