Metra mandates defibrillators on all trains

Passengers arrive at Millennium Park Station in Chicago on the Metra Electric District trains during their morning commute. (Zbigniew Bzdak/Chicago Tribune)

Metra's board today agreed to equip all trains with automatic external defibrillators.

The first-year cost of 427 units for trains and other locations is estimated at $1.1 million.

Metra will add the cost to its capital program budget but will also consider other options to pay for the AEDs. These include seeking grants or corporate sponsorship, such as from local hospitals, to cover costs.

"One way or another we have to provide them" said Metra director Jack Schaffer. 

It remains unclear when the installation of the devices would begin. Metra has yet to decide whether to purchase them via standard competitive bids or through a State of Illinois contract.

Metra would become the second major commuter rail line in the country to have AEDs. Only Boston's Massachusetts Bay Commuter Rail agency has them on each train. 

Experts say the defibrillators are so simple to use that anyone can operate them, even without training. They can cost $1,000 to $1,200 apiece. In Illinois, state and local laws require them in airports, gyms and some malls. Federal law requires them on passenger airliners, but they're not on commuter trains.

rwronski@tribune.com