Fire department purchases mechanical CPR devices with CARES Act funding


Seymour Fire Chief Brad Lucas doesn’t take credit for the life-saving mechanical CPR devices the city was able to purchase recently even though they bear his name.

Using allocated funds from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, the fire department has added not one, but three LUCAS 3 CPR Compression devices to its arsenal of emergency equipment.

"We just got them last week," Lucas said. "It’s a really good tool to have in our tool box, but no they didn’t name it after me."

LUCAS actually stands for Lund University Cardiopulmonary Assist System and was named for the school in Sweden where it was developed.

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Seymour firefighters began training with the devices earlier this week.

"They’re doing real well with it," he said.

Totaling around $45,000 for all three, the machines are used in the field to perform consistent and continuous chest compressions to an unconscious person suffering from cardiac arrest. 

"Any time a patient has coded, had a heart attack, from a drowning or something like that, or anytime a person is non-responsive and doesn’t have a heartbeat, that’s when you use it," he said.

By purchasing three, each Seymour fire station now has one system available to use on runs.

"We haven’t actually put them on the trucks yet until everybody gets trained, but probably the first of the week we will," Lucas said.

The department wouldn’t have been able to acquire the equipment without the CARES Act money.

"That kind of money would be well over our entire budget for equipment for the year," he said. "I’m always looking for grants for things like this to make purchases above and beyond what we can normally purchase."

Jackson County Emergency Medical Services (EMS) also has utilized the federal CARES Act grant to purchase the devices for its ambulances.

That’s where Lucas got the idea in the first place as he serves on the ambulance board.

"They’ve had theirs for a couple of months and have used them seven times already," Lucas said. "Even though we both cover Seymour, often times we’re there first, and there’s no reason why we shouldn’t have these too."

Jackson County EMS Director Nate Bryant said his department has seven of the LUCAS devices thanks to the legwork of Hugh Garner, who is the department’s education coordinator.

"We actually demoed a version back in 2009," Bryant said. "They are good both for our crews and better patient outcomes because no matter how good we are at giving CPR it’s never going to be as good as the machine."

The machines take the guesswork, physical limitations and human error out of administering CPR, Lucas said.

"It’s more consistent, accurate, all-the-time compressions," he said. "You push the little plunger against the patient’s chest and it measures where it’s at and knows exactly how far to push down every time. It measures at 102 compressions per minute.

Using the machine, a paramedic or emergency medical technician (EMT) doesn’t have to worry if they are giving chest compressions too fast or too slow or if they are pushing too hard or not hard enough.

"It’s 100% accurate on the rate, it’s 100% accurate on the depth and it doesn’t fail," Bryant said.

Unlike a human, the machine doesn’t get tired or lose strength after giving chest compressions for an extended period of time.

"If you do this for three or four minutes, there’s a lot of physical exertion there," Lucas said of performing CPR manually.

The devices also allow firefighters to provide hands-free care to patients, reducing the risk of transmission of the COVID-19 virus.

"It cuts back on the risk of exposure," Bryant said.

That’s one of the main reasons the equipment was eligible for CARES Act funding, Lucas added.

Another benefit of using the LUCAS Chest Compression system is it’s not restricted by a patient’s weight or size, making CPR more effective and easier to perform on heavier or larger individuals.

For paramedics and EMTs, the system improves safety issues and reduces workplace injuries because they don’t have to stand up in an ambulance to administer CPR while transporting a patient to the hospital.

Because time is critical when a patient’s heart has stopped, the LUCAS device can be applied easily and quickly in a matter of seconds.

"It’s very, very quick to set up and get going," Lucas said.

The machines also can be used in conjunction with an automated external defibrillator (AED) so chest compressions do not have to stop to deliver an electric shock to reestablish a heart rhythm.

"If you’re doing CPR and the defibrillator calls for a shock, you have to stop CPR to stand back because there is an electric current involved," he said. "You could easily lose a minute of compressions while it’s delivering a shock, but with this it still gives compressions the whole time that the AED is analyzing and giving the shock so we don’t lose any compressions."

In an effort to get more first responders familiar with the equipment, Bryant said Jackson County EMS is providing training to local volunteer fire departments on how to operate and use the LUCAS system.

The CARES Act funding has been a huge boost to local communities. In June, Seymour received an allocation of $640,148 while the county was eligible for $1.43 million. Brownstown, Crothersville and Medora also received funding.

"It’s been really good for us," Lucas said. "We got reimbursed for some overtime because we’ve had guys off because of COVID. We’ve had somebody off almost all the time for two or three months."

Lucas also has used the funding to purchase personal protective equipment (PPE) including N95 masks, protective gowns and covering and cleaning supplies. Just this week, the department received battery-powered atomizers for easier and more widespread disinfecting.

Seymour Clerk-Treasurer Darrin Boas said even though the state has changed its focus and accounting processes for the CARES Act funding more than once, the city has put the money to good use.

After recently submitting payroll claims for reimbursement, Boas said the city’s original allotment of money is now gone.

In the beginning, the city used the CARES Act funds to purchase PPE, cleaning supplies and some Chromebooks to have virtual meetings and for overtime pay.

Later on, Boas was successful in his bid to use nearly $300,000 to replace an automated trash truck that had quit working and couldn’t be repaired. 

Some funds also were used to retrofit police cars with plastic seating to make it easier to clean and disinfect if someone is sick, Boas said. 

"It’s definitely helped us do some things that we wouldn’t have been able to do otherwise," Boas said.

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