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Shock treatment

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

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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

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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

out there.”

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

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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

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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

the area.”

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

care.”


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