Conn. firetrucks, EMS vehicles to get new defibrillators

By Monica Polanco
Hartford Courant (Connecticut)
Copyright 2007 The Hartford Courant Company
All Rights Reserved

NEW BRITAIN, Conn. — City firetrucks and EMS vehicles will be equipped starting today with defibrillators featuring new technology that is expected to increase the number of people who survive cardiac arrests.

The laptop devices have built-in computers that analyze the heart's rhythm and deliver an electrical shock, if needed, to restore the patient's heart rate. Sixteen of the machines will be placed in firetrucks and EMS vehicles, replacing defibrillators that were installed in 2005. City ambulances have much more sophisticated tools for helping cardiac arrest patients.

The new devices comply with revised guidelines set forth by the American Heart Association that recommend that cardiac arrest patients first receive cardiopulmonary resuscitation, then be shocked by an automatic external defibrillator, or AED, at a lower energy setting and less often, said Bruce Baxter, executive director and chief of service for New Britain Emergency Medical Services. Research has shown that cardiac arrest patients respond better to CPR, followed by less intense and less frequent AED shocks, Baxter said.

Each year, 100 to 125 people suffer cardiac arrests in New Britain. Before the city designated its firefighters as first responders, an average of five to eight cardiac arrest patients survived each year. With the city's first defibrillators, the number of survivors rose to as many as 15 a year. The new technology is expected to help save 5 to 10 more cardiac arrest patients a year, Baxter said.

"We know that getting a defibrillator to the side of the patient and being able to shock the patient in the first few minutes of a sudden cardiac arrest is absolutely essential to their long-term survival," he said.

The new machines will also help the city obtain a HEARTSafe Community designation from the state Department of Public Health. The HEARTSafe communities program is intended to encourage communities across the state to train people in the use of CPR and defibrillators.

For more information on CPR training, call the EMS department at 860-225-8787. Businesses or public entities that are interested in obtaining AEDs may also call the EMS department.

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