Calif. department gets new cardiac monitor/defibrillators

Firefighters and paramedics have been trained on the new equipment

By Chantal M Lovell
Redlands Daily Facts 

REDLANDS, Calif. — Seven new LIFEPAK 15 cardiac monitor/defibrillators will hit the streets Friday, giving firefighters and paramedics the capability to treat patients with top-of-the-line equipment.

This month, the department received seven new monitor/defibrillators to replace outdated models in use. Firefighters and paramedics have been trained on the new equipment, which will be in use Friday, said firefighter paramedic Ryan Gallagher.

"We just completed our training," Gallagher said. "We are making sure all of our shifts were getting trained properly on this (equipment) so when they go into service everyone will be up to date."

The monitor/defibrillator is a cardiac care response system used to assist in providing basic and advanced life support in the field. It enables firefighters and paramedics to evaluate the function of a patient's heart, deliver calibrated shocks, measure oxygen levels, gauge carbon monoxide and/or methemoglobin in a patient's blood stream and come equipped with a metronome to guide users in the application of CPR compressions and ventilations.

Additionally, the monitors can send information directly to a hospital.

"These are capable of transmitting information to the hospitals, everything we're looking at, we can send to a hospital so the doctors can see it," said firefighter paramedic Dustin Whitaker. "There's nothing that's lost in translation from how we see it to how they see it. It will allow us to treat the patient more accurately with a doctor's guidance on scene. It extends us as his hands. Then when we get them to the hospital, (doctors are) ready. As soon as we walk in the doors, they've already seen what's going on so they're ready to go."

Unlike their predecessors, the monitors have a "SunVue" display, making screens visible outside in bright sunlight. They are also sturdier than previous models, Whitaker said.

Of the department's total calls for service, 69 percent are requests for medical aid and the monitors will be used on each of those calls, according to Battalion Chief Scott MacDonald. That percentage does not include traffic collisions, fires or other incidents that require medical assistance while firefighters are on scene.

"It walks in on every single call," Gallagher said.

The monitors will help the RFD meet the new National Fire Protection Association standards, which call for firefighters involved in significant fires to be screened for carbon monoxide exposure, MacDonald said.

MacDonald said the monitors are replacing out-of-date ones, some that are as old as 13 years. The standard life-span of such a monitor is five years in hospitals and eight years in military missions.

"I look at it as a laptop computer," MacDonald said. "It's all technology inside and as technology changes and evolves, so will the monitors."

Fire Chief Jeff Frazier said some of the department's older monitors were at risk of no longer being supported by the manufacturer, which was a driving force in having them replaced.

The total lease-to-purchase cost for the monitors is $184,317.75, which will be paid in 60 installments, $26,000 to be paid this year, according to a city staff report. The money was included in the city manager's 2010-11 budget recommendation.

Frazier said the department opted to purchase the monitors at the same time to cut down on future training costs.

"We're really happy to have these," Whitaker said. "They're the cutting edge technology so for us to be in a budget deficit and still be able to provide the highest level of cardiac care speaks volumes of the administration here that they are able to figure out how to get us this stuff so we can most accurately treat patients in the field."

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