Lt. Michael Sherman explains how the new automated external defibrillators operate with Mayor Thomas Bernard, Fire Chief Stephen Meranti and grant writer Amalio Jusino of Emergency Response Consulting.
The mayor joins firefighters for a presentation on the new units.
The AEDs will replace units that are more than a decade old.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The Fire Department is now equipped with brand-new automated external defibrillators thanks to a federal matching grant.
The department displayed the seven AEDs and a training module on Wednesday that will replace units that are now more than 10 years old. The devices will be accompanied by AMBU, or artificial manual breathing units (bag resuscitators), that have not yet arrived.
"Our grant writer Amalio Jusino did a great job and we were able to purchase seven units, one for each piece of apparatus and we'll save one for the station," Fire Chief Stephen Meranti said. "We take them on every medical call we go on."
The units were purchased for $12,500 through a 2018 Assistance to Firefighters Grant with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security providing $11,904.76 and the city the 5 percent match of $595.24. Meranti thanked Mayor Thomas Bernard for supporting the grant.
Fire Lt. Michael Sherman explained how the Physio-Control LifePaks work. The devices have voice directions and simple images that demonstrate how they are to be used.
"As soon as you open it up, the pads indicate where you are supposed to put these," he said, showing where on an adult the pads are to be placed. "The idea is you want the electrical current to go through the heart. It will read what's going on — the rhythm that the heart's in, the electrical conduction that's going on — and if it's out of rhythm, it will have you stop them. It's that simple."
The device can be set for use with an adult or a child, in contrast to the older models that required using specific pads. The older ones also are voice-activated to older protocols while the new ones are set to current standards. Their software can also be updated to remain current.
"It means we can keep these in service for a longer period," Sherman said.
Jusino, of Emergency Response Consulting and a longtime emergency medical technician, said the newer AEDs also have an educational aspect in being able to see the change in cardiac rhythm.
"It has Bluetooth capabilities so it can notify and send to the responding ambulance the rhythm prior to their arrival," said Jusino. "But on an apparatus, it's not necessary because the responders already there with them."
Sherman said all firefighters are trained on using the AEDs.
"You can't substitute anything for an AED," he said. "When someone drops and it's a cardiac event, they need the electrical current that this is going to provide to reset the heart. You can't do anything else."
Jusino said more than half of cardiac arrests are "shockable rhythm cardiac arrests."
"So the value of these, take your life expectancy from 7 to 10 percent with CPR alone, up to 70-80 percent and, applied within the first minute, near 90 percent," he said. The other value of this ... one of the leading causes of death in the firefighter world is just cardiac arrest. So now they have an AED with the most current technology with them available at all times."
Sherman said communities with great access to AEDs have higher survival rates, pointing to Seattle as an example. According to the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation, residents in King's County, Wash., had a 62 percent survival rate in 2013, significantly higher than most urban areas. This is credited to regional standards in emergency care and first-responders' widespread availability to AEDs.
"We're still a Heart Safe designated community because of the number of AEDs that we have throughout the city," Jusino said. "We're just adding to that platform and the sustainability of it. It's one thing to have that title, but not to maintain that sustainability with new technology ... it would be a failure to the residents. And that's not happening."
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