Ohio city to add AEDs to fire trucks

Fire officials said fire engines are often the first emergency vehicle to reach someone in need


Sean McDonnell
Akron Beacon Journal

AKRON, Ohio — A device as small as a purse can help save a life, and the Akron Fire Department is taking steps to get them to patients sooner.

The department announced that it will be adding automated external defibrillators to each of its 13 fire engines, in addition to 14 ambulances that already have the devices.

The Akron Fire Department will be adding automatic external defibrillators to more vehicles to get life-saving tools to patients quicker.
The Akron Fire Department will be adding automatic external defibrillators to more vehicles to get life-saving tools to patients quicker. (Photo/Phil Masturzo, Beacon Journal)

Akron Fire District Chief Joseph Natko said the faster that first responders can get these AEDs to patients, the better chance they have of saving the life of someone from sudden cardiac arrest.

"We've found putting an AED on these other vehicles will potentially save lives if we can get these defibrillators to somebody who needs them," Natko said. "Our goal is to get the AEDs to somebody on the streets who needs them as rapidly as possible."

Last year was the first time the department had more 50,000 calls for service. Natko said that number has risen by 3 to 5% each year. Overdoses and an aging population contribute, he said.

"It's something we're quite familiar with, but the rising run volume is not just unique to Akron," he said. "I think everyone is seeing it."

With increased call volumes, Natko said a fire engine is often the first vehicle that can reach someone in need. Each year, he said, the department breaks records for calls for service.

Natko said calls for EMS often drive that increased call volume.

"We are very taxed where often times we'll have every ambulance on the street either treating somebody, or taking someone to the hospital, or coming back from a call," he said.

Natko said fire engines or ladder trucks are sent when an ambulance isn't available to stabilize a patient until an ambulance can arrive. The AEDs will give them another tool to help patients, he said.

By policy, the devices will only be used if the crew on the fire engine arrives before a medical unit or ambulance that has a prolonged response time.

The AEDs are not as advanced as the devices on ambulances, and cost about $2,200 each. Natko said the department will be buying more devices to add to ladder trucks and supervisor vehicles.

All firefighters receive extensive training for treating cardiac issues, but Natko said there will be additional training for personnel on how to use the new devices.

Other efforts are underway to expand access to emergency care in the community.

Natko said the department held more than 90 CPR training events last year to give residents a life-saving tool if someone near them goes into cardiac arrest.

In December, the department also started Leave It Behind. The program allows EMS units to leave civilian naloxone kits with patients or family members

Natko said anything the department can do to get care to a patient sooner is beneficial.

"It's all about just trying to do better by the citizens and our patients," Natko said.

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©2020 the Akron Beacon Journal (Akron, Ohio)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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