Federal money will help the Washington Township Fire Department purchase technology to improve its emergency medical services' response to reports of possible cardiac arrest.

The fire department received a $160,115 grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency Assistance to Firefighters Fund, said Troy Elmore, Washington Township's EMS manager. With the required $16,011 contribution from the township, the total funding is $176,126.

Of that total, $59,524 will be used to purchase four LUCAS chest-compression systems for all four of the departments' medic units, Elmore said.

Four years of maintenance for the devices is provided by $18,604 in funding from the grant.

The $97,998 remainder of the funding will be used to purchase exhaust-removal systems for stations 92 and 93, Elmore said.

This is the first time the department has received a FEMA grant, Elmore said.

"This is a hard grant to get, so we're pretty excited," he said.

The department covers 27.5 square miles and includes four fire stations and 140 firefighters, Elmore said. Of the more than 6,000 calls the department receives annually, 75 percent are EMS calls.

The benefit of the LUCAS device, Elmore said, is that it allows for continuous, consistent cardiopulmonary resuscitation compressions without breaks -- the best way to get a pulse back on a person suffering from cardiac arrest.

Humans get fatigued and performing 30 chest compressions manually in the same way is difficult, Elmore said.

Before the grant, the fire department had only one LUCAS device that was assigned to the battalion chief's vehicle, Elmore said. The grant enables each of the four medic units to be outfitted with a LUCAS device.

While the device is delivering chest compressions to a person suffering from cardiac arrest, a paramedic would be freed to perform other actions, such as providing an airway to breathe, breathing for the patient, starting IVs, preparing and administering medications and assisting family members, Elmore said.

The devices are battery powered and charged when they are stored in vehicles, Elmore said. Each of the units also has a spare battery.

The devices could arrive by October, Elmore said. The exhaust-removal systems are expected to arrive by the end of the year.

Jeremy Stiver, a firefighter-paramedic assigned to station 91, said the LUCAS device allows paramedics to perform other needed functions.

"Being an emergency medical provider for nearly 18 years and having worked on many cardiac arrests, the one thing that we never seem to have enough of are free hands," he said.

Performing CPR can be difficult, and doing so in a moving vehicle with abrupt stops and sharp turns can make their efforts less effective, he said.

"The LUCAS device allows for safe, consistent CPR while we respond with lights and sirens to emergency departments," Stiver said.

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