BURBANK -- One’s chances of surviving a heart attack in Burbank are
about to get a little beter.
Beginning in January, seven Burbank fire engines and trucks will be
equipped with a portable device any firefighter can use to help a
stricken person’s heart start beating before paramedics even arrive, said
Battalion Chief Norm Stockton.
The machine, known as an automatic external defibrillator, is designed
for firefighters who are not trained as paramedics but who are often the
first to arrive at an emergency call where someone’s heart has stopped,
he said. The defibrillator applies electrical impulses to the heart
through paddles placed over the chest.
“The idea behind it is to get better care out in the field faster and
stay ahead of the game,” Stockton said. “It’s one of the latest things
Burbank firefighters went through a 4 1/2-hour training session to
learn how to use the machine -- which is about the size of a toaster oven
and costs $6,000.
Burbank Paramedic Royce Nix, who put together the training, said that
for the machine to save lives it must be used in the first crucial
minutes after the heart has stopped. “If a person is reached by
emergency personnel within six to eight minutes -- as long as CPR has
been initiated the whole time -- and the person is defibrillated, they
have an increased chance of survival than if we just did CPR,” he said.
Burbank’s average response time for engine companies is less than four
minutes, Stockton said, and a bit longer for rescue ambulances.
Nix said having the defibrillator on engines will increase the chances
that victims are reached in time.
“There are only two rescue ambulances in town,” Nix said. “You can’t
have a paramedic on every corner, but you can have an engine company in
When the first responding firefighters arrive, all they have to do is
hook the machine up to the patient and let it do the work, he said.
The unit automatically analyzes a patient’s electrocardiogram -- an
electronic picture of how the heart is functioning -- and determines if
the heart needs to be shocked, Nix said. If so, the machine can
administer three shocks in a row on its own, he said.
In Glendale, where the unit has been used since 1994 -- 18 lives have
been saved by using the machine, said Glendale Fire Capt. Lee Owens.
“Those are people who walked out of the hospital,” Owens said. "(The
defibrillator) is the first step in the whole chain of pre-hospital