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Marengo-Liberty VFD members Dylan Anderson, left, and Mike Bary watch as Billie Gilmore shows them how to program the LUCAS device, a machine that automatically performs chest compressions. Photos by Stephanie Taylor Ferriell

Marengo-Liberty department awarded $50,000 USDA grant

Life-saving LUCAS device now ready to use

February 12, 2020
The Marengo-Liberty Township Volunteer Fire Department has been awarded a $50,000 USDA grant. The funds enabled the department to purchase the life-saving LUCAS device it had been fundraising for and will allow them to address several other pressing needs.

The $17,000 LUCAS device, a machine which automatically performs chest compressions, arrived last week. Members completed training Thursday at the firehouse.

The LUCAS is an automatic chest compression device purchased by the Marengo-Liberty VFD with a USDA grant.
The machine is housed in a suitcase-style case for easy transport. It also recharges in the case.

Pairs of volunteers took turns unpacking the LUCAS device, placing it over a dummy's chest, programming it and starting it. The other person in the pair performed chest compressions while his or her partner set up the device, a process which takes less than 30 seconds.

While "it seemed like forever" when the department first started looking into purchasing a LUCAS device, member Billie Gilmore said things happened very quickly after the grant was awarded and the equipment was ordered through Stryker Medical.

Gilmore said she can think of several recent medical runs in which the LUCAS device would have been used, possibly even saving lives.

She said having an automated CPR machine is invaluable when it's necessary to move a patient down stairs, which means an interruption in manual CPR.

It will also be useful because the number of volunteer fire department members is dwindling in most areas.

Gilmore said American Heart Association guidelines call for those performing CPR to switch out every two minutes. With a limited number of responders, fatigue can set in quickly.

Gilmore said while the LUCAS device belongs to Marengo-Liberty, it will not be used exclusively on their runs.

"If I hear a run where CPR is in progress and I feel I can get there with it and help them, I will," she said. "We would do anything to help anybody if we can get there."

Because response and transport times are so long to and from some areas of Crawford County, it will depend on where an emergency occurs as to whether taking the LUCAS device would be practical.

Marengo-Liberty began fundraising for the device last fall. A December chili supper was very successful, said Gilmore, and raised $6,000. That money provided the match for the USDA grant.

Gilmore said she was afraid the department might be looking at a long time frame before they could raise funds for the device That all changed when the department learned of the possibility of a USDA grant.

"I called and explained all the needs we have," said Gilmore.

She spoke with Craig McGowan, who handles community programs for the southern district.

"He said, 'I think we can help'," Gilmore said.

Gilmore said she was thrilled just about the LUCAS device funding, let alone the monies for the department's other needs.

The grant funds will also:

Buy new tires for three trucks. The tires were found to be in need of replacement during a recent inspection.

Replace outdated air bottles, which have a 15-year lifespan. Some air bottles could not be renewed for this calendar year. The department will purchase 24 new air bottles.

Allow the department to buy 15 new dual-band radios. Five of the current radios could not upgrade with the state's system and others needed replacing as well.

Fire Chief Ian Newton said the USDA grant was extremely helpful to the department.

"Our treasurer works very hard applying for any grant that may be beneficial to our department," he said. "With us being a small, volunteer department, we don't have many funds readily available to be able to purchase new equipment such as the life-saving LUCAS device or the ability to service our trucks with new tires."

Newton said volunteer fire departments are vital, especially in rural areas such as Crawford County.

"Without our volunteer department, residents would not have emergency fire services respond as quickly as we do," he said. "Because we are strictly volunteer, in such a small community we do struggle to find people who wish to put forward their time and efforts without monetary compensation.

"I believe we serve our town very well, and we are here whenever need be."

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