A Graham fire chief’s determination in pursuit of an insurance industry grant has brought 20 portable cardiac defibrillation machines to the Graham Fire District, which will use them to help save lives under traumatic circumstances.

The $5,000 grant came from Prudential Insurance Co. thanks to the efforts of Battalion Chief Dan Hannah and resulted in the stationing of defibrillation machines on all fire department vehicles and at two district stations manned around the clock.

To qualify for the grant, the Graham Fire District commissioners had to pony up $22,500 in matching funds.

Hannah says he wrote the grant request with the close assistance of department secretary, Olivia Werner. He called it time-consuming and difficult to structure but well worth the trouble. The department’s goal, he says, is to purchase enough of the machines to eventually acquire and place them in public and private facilities throughout the district.

“We have contemplated making defibrillators as accessible as fire extinguishers,” Hannah says, noting that the compact machines already are in use by many airlines for in-flight emergencies.

Graham firefighter and paramedic Todd Jensen says the units are designed to shock a heart back to normal rhythm after cardiac trauma or a coronary throws it into spasms. Use of the units by fire department emergency personnel can mean the difference between life and death for a victim.

The machine will tell whether an individual in distress needs a shock, he says.

“If so, it will give a voice prompt,” he continues, “and a shock will be delivered.”

The victim can be given a series of three shocks, says Jensen, and if that doesn’t work, the voltage can be increased. Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) can be administered if the heart still cannot be brought into proper rhythm, Jensen says.

The units are a foot square, six inches deep and easy to operate, Jensen says.

The department also has received a thermal-imaging camera, donated by Farmers Insurance Co., that allows firemen to see through smoke in a burning building and quickly locate unconscious or disoriented victims.