GREENFIELD — When Robert Huskisson learned his employer was about to discard $30,000 worth of medical equipment, the reserve police officer came up with a better idea.
Huskisson, a firefighter for Eli Lilly and Co., recently arranged for his bosses to donate 41 defibrillators to the Hancock County Sheriff’s Department, where Huskisson has volunteered as a reserve deputy for eight years.
The donation, which includes defibrillators, shock pads and replacement batteries, equips each of the sheriff’s department patrol vehicles with a life-saving device to be used in case of an emergency. Defibrillators can restart a stopped heart or restore a regular heartbeat that has fallen dangerously out of rhythm.
Lilly’s fire and rescue crew was in the process of upgrading when Huskisson approached his superiors about donating the equipment, the vast majority of which has been tested and maintained but never actually used.
Lilly’s upgrade was a preventive step, as the company that made the devices has been bought out and will no longer manufacture replacement parts, Huskisson explained.
Meanwhile, however, the devices are still operational.
“It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to destroy something that could still be used by other organizations,” Huskisson said.
The need for such devices for a police force is greater than some might think, Sheriff Mike Shepherd said. Just last week, a deputy used a defibrillator to shock a man who had gone into cardiac arrest in his home.
The fact the officer had a debrillator with him was lucky: At the time, the department was sharing about a half dozen units.
With Lilly’s donation, that scenario will be the norm, not the exception.
“Obviously, it’s great,” Shepherd said. “It protects the public … at no expense to taxpayers. Obviously, that’s a win-win situation.”
The best-case scenario is that trained medical personnel arrive first, but that isn’t always the case when officers are the ones out on patrol when a call for help comes out, said Greenfield Fire Chief James Roberts.
“They’re on the road all the time, so they’ve got a head start on us anyway,” Roberts said. “It could be the difference between somebody’s living or dying. The minutes count. Seconds count, actually.”
The time lag can be considerable in rural areas where volunteer fire departments that are not staffed full time are called upon for personnel, added Sgt. Tom Harrison.
Harrison oversees the sheriff’s department operations division and was charged with distributing the devices last week.
If officers come upon a serious accident, whether they’re on duty or off, they’ll now be equipped to provide more advanced first aid, he said.
Heavily traveled areas can also be difficult for fire departments to access, especially if the run requires a fire truck or apparatus unequipped to navigate tight spaces and traffic jams.
“Look how long it takes for even the paid departments to get out on the interstate,” Harrison said.
Each of the kits contains a spare battery that doesn’t expire until 2017 or 2018. That’s a considerable savings to the department, Harrison said.
“The current ones that we have, those batteries are around $180 apiece,” he said. “That’s just batteries.”
Many officers work side jobs patrolling local businesses and schools. Others work security details at sporting events.
Because they are permitted to take their squad cars to those jobs, they’ll now also have a defibrillator on hand.
“Hopefully, like insurance, you never need it,” Shepherd said, “but when you do, it’s nice to have.”