HEIDELBERG, Germany - The American Red Cross reports that each year some 500,000 Americans die of cardiac arrest.

And when started promptly, cardiopulmonary resuscitation can save victims by supplying oxygen to the brain and other vital organs. But in many cases CPR by itself cannot correct the underlying heart program; an automated external defibrillator is needed to return a normal heart rhythm.

Accordingly, since 2004 the Installation Management Command-Europe Family, Morale, Welfare and Recreation sports and fitness staff has bought and placed AEDs into all staffed fitness centers throughout the region. The organization made a second bulk buy in 2008 to make AEDs available for outdoor recreation trips and other physical activities.

To ensure the equipment is used properly during emergencies, fitness staff members undergo annual training to stay current on defibrillator procedures - which has saved lives.

These steps are taken because "customer safety and well being remain a top priority for us," said Jim Mattingly, chief of IMCOM-Europe sports, fitness and aquatics.

As such, region fitness centers recently completed voluntarily recalls by AED manufacturers Medtronic and Zoll, with the later calling for a change in batteries that came with initial orders. The Federal Drug Administration has also issued a safety alert on AEDs built by Welch Allyn; however, that product is not used in region fitness centers.