ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — The Orange County Fire Department took devices that were designed to save lives out of its rescue trucks. The AutoPulse device is supposed to help medics give patients CPR, but firefighters are afraid it could be a liability.
Orange County Fire Rescue spent $600,000 on 55 of the automated CPR devices called AutoPulse to improve efficiency four years ago. The Massachusetts-based manufacturer, Zoll, says they are more reliable than manual CPR, but the fire chief just signed a memo ordering his staff to remove the devices from rescue vehicles.
"We didn't want to use a piece of equipment that really needed some adjustments," said Lt. Mark Smothers, Orange County Fire Rescue.
Serious problems popped up earlier this year. An internal review over an 18-month period found the battery failed 30 percent of the time while being used on trauma patients who stopped breathing. They were used on 400 patients since 2009.
"These machines don't take care of patients. Firefighters take care of patients," Smothers said.
Fire officials insist patients were never in jeopardy, because when the device failed there was always a firefighter within arms reach to take over CPR.
"Was this a complete waste of money?" WFTV reporter Daralene Jones asked Smothers.
"No," he replied.
The senior vice president with Zoll, Ward Hamilton, insisted during a phone interview his product is reliable. He says other departments are testing it now and they've sold 5,000 since they hit the market in 2005. He blamed the battery failure on Orange County Fire Rescue.
"There is probably some reason to think that they could've done a better job at replacing their batteries," Hamilton said.
Orange County officials said the problem is strictly a manufacturer defect and, until it's fixed, the automatic CPR machines won't go back in the rescue trucks.
Officials with Rural Metro told WFTV they don't use the AutoPulse units because of concerns over the effectiveness and reliability. However, they are evaluating other products on the market.
Orlando Fire doesn't use the device either.