Sewickley Twp. supervisors mull purchase of defibrillators
By Joe Napsha
Published: Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
The Sewickley Township Supervisors are considering using some of the $212,789 it has received from the state's Marcellus shale gas well impact fee to buy life-saving devices for the township's four fire volunteer fire departments, the municipal building and township recreation center in Herminie.
None of three supervisors at their meeting last Wednesday supported the request from Sewickley's four fire departments – Hutchinson, Lowber, Herminie and Rillton – to use Sewickley's allocation of the gas well impact fee to buy 14 automated external defibrillators so that each of the departments' emergency vehicles can have one.
Supervisors Wanda Layman and Joseph Kerber favored buying two of the devices for each of the fire departments, while Supervisor Alan Fossi said he would buy just one AED for each of the township's fire departments.
The portable automated external defibrillator checks the heart rhythm and can be used to send an electric shock to the heart to try to restore a normal rhythm. AEDs are used to treat sudden cardiac arrest, according to the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute.
The fire department officials were concerned that some of the vehicles do not have AEDs, Fossi said. Two of the fire companies favored one model of AED and two fire companies wanted another model, Fossi said.
Layman said she also wants an AED for the municipal building, one for the township public works truck and one at the Sewickley Township Recreation Center. Fossi said he favored placing one AED at the township garage, one in a township vehicle and two at the recreation center.
Kerber said he wants more information before making a decision on buying the devices.
The cost of 14 AEDs could range from $20,540, as proposed by Zoll Medical Corp. of Chelmsford, Mass., to $30,302, as offered by Physio-Control Inc. of Redmond, Wash. Phillips Healthcare of Andover, Mass., would sell the 14 AEDs for $23,033.
Some of the features of the AEDs and the services offered differ among the vendors, Layman said. Zoll's device tells the user whether chest compressions they are giving a cardiac arrest victim are sufficient.
“That might save a life,” Layman said.
Herminie Fire Chief Eric Kline, who did not attend the meeting, said it would be better for the fire companies to have an AED in every emergency vehicle because there are times when an AED is needed and the vehicle with an AED is at another emergency scene. Kline said that happened recently when he responded to a call on Interstate 70 in the truck with an AED, and a call came for an AED on Clay Pike. The firefighters responded and performed cardio pulmonary resuscitation, Kline said.
“To me, it's not that expensive,” Kline said.
Kline said it also was important to have an AED trainer device at the fire halls to ensure proper training on the equipment. The Herminie fire company uses a Phillips model AED.
“The biggest issue is the proper training,” Kline said.
To Rillton Fire Chief Paul Rupnik Sr., the fire departments need an AED in every vehicle “because you never know when you'll need it.”
The Rillton fire department has only one AED, an older model that is kept in the fire department's rescue vehicle, said Rupnik, who was not at the supervisors meeting.
Rupnik pointed out that the firefighters could be fighting a brush fire 2 miles off the road when a firefighter might be in need of the life-saving device.
Since local tax dollars would not be used to purchase the AEDs, Rupnik said the fire departments believed it was a good use of the money from the state.
“What's a life worth? If you save a life, it's worth it,” Rupnik said, referring to the cost.
Lowber Fire Chief Lee Ohler and Hutchinson Fire Chief Dennis Beckinger could not be reached for comment.
Layman, who is the township's coordinator, said that she believes the township can use the revenue from Sewickley's 2012 Marcellus shale gas well impact fee to buy the AEDs. It received the money from the state in July, Layman said.
The gas well impact fee can be used for emergency preparedness and public safety, including the purchase of equipment, according to the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, which collects and distributes the revenue from the impact fee under Act 13.
In other business, the supervisors approved a proposed ordinance that would bring provisions of the township's zoning ordinance into compliance with the state's Municipalities Planning Code.
The zoning ordinance needed to be updated because there was excessive requirements for notifying the public of changes to the ordinance. The need to change the zoning ordinance was prompted by a battle in Westmoreland County Court over rezoning property in Herminie to permit a commercial use, said Daniel Hewitt, township solicitor.
The township planning commission and the Westmoreland County Planning Department must be notified of the action before final approval by the supervisors, Hewitt said.
Joe Napsha is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 724-836-5252.
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