by Maureen Landis

Two Lancaster County fire companies will add equipment this month to treat victims of cardiac arrest, a leading cause of death for firefighters.

   Ironville Fire Company Chief David Ney said that according to the National Fire Protection Association, "more than 50 percent of all firefighter fatalities are caused by cardiac arrest.

   "It is only common sense that a fire engine carry this vital piece of equipment with these statistics in mind."

   Columbia No. 1 also will add the device, called a semiautomatic external defibrillator, donated by Prudential Insurance Co.’s Helping Hearts Program.

   After training this month provided by the Lancaster County Heart Foundation, the fire crews will be prepared to increase protection to residents in West Hempfield Township and Columbia Borough.

   The defibrillators deliver an electric shock to the heart to reverse sudden cardiac arrest, the abrupt and life-threatening onset of a chaotic heart rhythm.

   Joseph Felus, chief of Columbia No. 1, said time is critical when an individual goes into cardiac arrest.

   "For every minute that defibrillation is delayed, the chance of a victim’s survival is reduced by 10 percent," he said.

   Dr. Mark Cardinal of Twin Rose Primary Health Care will oversee the program for the fire companies and act as medical director. He said defibrillation administered within the first few minutes of sudden cardiac arrest can save up to 50 percent of victims.