The Efland Fire Department has recently purchased an important new tool to aid its mission of saving lives during times of emergency and helping prevent tragedies. The acquisition of two brand new LUCAS chest compression devices will help Efland’s Fire officials be significantly more prepared on calls when they have to attend to individuals requiring lifesaving CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation).
“Humans, they get tired. This thing doesn’t get tired,” Efland Fire Chief Kevin Brooks said of the CPR chest compression device. “It does 100 beats per minute. That’s what you are supposed to do in CPR - 100 to 120 beats per minute. We have ours set at 111 (beats per minute). With humans, you’re always switching out, rotating through. But once you put this device on, it does its thing. It takes all the error out.”
According to Efland Firefighter Jason Hackler, studies have shown that in order to conduct effective CPR, a person is only good for about two minutes to be fully effective before switching off to a colleague. Efland has become the first emergency services agency in Orange County to acquire the LUCAS compression device.
“On the scene, our calls are lasting up to an hour,” Hackler explained. “We had a neighboring department last year, they were on a scene doing CPR for an hour and a half. It really wore the guys out. This machine, it is battery operated. If we are there for an extended period of time, we can hook up to household power, so we never have to stop. The average battery life lasts about 40 minutes. We carry two batteries (to scenes).”
The CPR chest compression device will be a major tool for Efland’s personnel as they deal with local calls requesting help with such medical emergencies as cardiac arrest and heart attacks.
“We can’t control when they went down,” Chief Brooks said. “But when we get there, we can control the quality of care that they are going to get with this device. The depth of the compressions. The rhythm, just to keep the blood flowing in their body, which is vital to the brain. I think it’s four minutes that the brain starts to die without oxygen.”
The Efland Fire Department became motivated to acquire such equipment following a tragic incident that took place approximately a year ago, in which the staff was required to go deep into the woods to try and save a patient’s life after they had fallen into cardiac arrest.
“We came up with this idea because we had a bad call over here in the woods. There was an incident that spurred this on. (The individual) was deep in the woods, and we were doing chest compressions. Going through the valleys, going through logs - you know what it’s like being deep in the woods,” Chief Brooks said. “There were several times we had to come off (the patient’s chest). If we’d had this at that time, we could have put that on, and it would have never stopped.”
“I’m not saying they would have survived, but they would have had a better chance of survivability. And that’s what this is all about - survivability,” Brooks continued. “This is what we do it for. Not every Fire Department in the nation is a first responder program. We started this program because we live, eat, breath, and die with the people in this community. They are a part of us. We want to give them the best quality care that we can.”
For a small, rural fire department such as the one in Efland - one which requires the staffing of numerous volunteers - the addition of the CPR equipment is vital to improve potential outcomes when the firefighting staff may be light.
“Most of us work other jobs, so you might only have a couple of guys available that day, because it’s mostly volunteer,” firefighter Will Brooks explained. “Switching off chest compressions - someone else has the (IV) bag, someone is giving drugs - you’re going to get tired real quick. And the quality of compressions get worse and worse, because you’re tired. With this, you stick this on, and it is doing compressions. You get that ready, stick it on. You’re done. Someone keeps bagging, someone does the drugs. It’s one less person you have to worry about. And it’s the same quality.”
“When we get tired, our quality gets less and less,” added fellow Efland firefighter Chris Wade. “But also when you have this going, you don’t have to switch out people. And that takes time. With this equipment, all you do is press one button and it stops. You check the pulse, and you go back and press play (if necessary). Switching out people over time, that adds up. This takes away from that extra time. We’re one of the few true fire departments in this state that has this machine. With us being majority volunteers in a small, rural area, I think that’s a big thing.”
Chief Brooks indicated that all members of the Efland Fire Department carry EMT certification. The Fire Department went through the State Emergency Management Service and the Medical Director of Orange County to purchase the chest compression device.
The staff conducts training every few months to remain prepared for potential use of the device in the event of a medical emergency requiring it. On the evening of Thursday, January 9, numerous members of the Efland Fire Department staff made their way to the firehouse along U.S. Highway 70 to take part in training on the CPR compression device.
“What we do here in Efland, on a quarterly basis, we do a big group effort. That way our training stays up. We don’t run into high risk (situations) every day, but we need to be on top of our game here. And this allows us to do that,” Chief Brooks said.