By Kelly Werthmann

JEFFERSON COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4)– West Metro Fire Rescue is training with the newest member of their life-saving team — Lucas. No, that’s not a person – it’s a device.

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The LUCAS machine is a chest compression system designed to help firefighters, EMTs and other first responders perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation, or CPR, more effectively and efficiently.

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“Protocol is to perform CPR for 30 minutes for people who are in cardiac arrest,” West Metro EMS Division Chief Jeremy Metz explained. “To have rescuers do that consistently is almost impossible. Studies have shown really after the first minute or two minutes, a human performing CPR starts to become ineffective.”

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That’s where LUCAS comes in. The portable machine acts as a second set of hands for first responders, providing consistent, high quality compressions for as long as needed.

“We’ve got some of the strongest guys in the state doing compressions, but even those strong guys can’t be doing compressions forever,” firefighter Joe Zimmermann said. “The device will allows us to keep doing compressions for a long time and our guys won’t get tired.”

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Zimmermann was among a group of West Metro firefighters learning to use the life-saving tool Friday afternoon. He told CBS4’s Kelly Werthmann he was impressed the LUCAS device works even when crews are moving a patient.

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“It allows for another person to be doing something else other than only pushing on a patient’s chest,” he said, showing how the device works. “Now my hands are completely off [the patient] so I can work on trying to get an IV started, work on getting oxygen for the patient, or we can be talking to a bystander who can maybe explain to us why the patient is down.”

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Firefighter Terrell Hale witnessed the LUCAS device in action while in Florida last year. He was there as part of the Colorado Task Force that responded during Hurricane Irma. Hale and his crew performed CPR on a woman for 45 minutes until an ambulance with a LUCAS device arrived.

“They did a transport all the way to the hospital during the hurricane with this device and it worked. They got pulses back,” Hale said.

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After witnessing the success of LUCAS in Florida, Hale is anxious to have the devices help first responders in Colorado.

“We’re going to see these more and more in the Denver metro area which will in turn save more lives,” he said. “Ultimately I think this is going to benefit everybody, not just West Metro.”

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The LUCAS devices are not cheap: about $12,000 each, according to Metz. He said WMFR reviewed their budget and was able to purchase five LUCAS machines to put on board their ambulances with a goal of getting them into service in March. Chief Metz also said the agency is looking at grants to purchase devices for every ambulance in the district.

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Kelly Werthmann joined the CBS4 team as the morning reporter in 2012. After serving as weekend morning anchor, Kelly is now Covering Colorado First for CBS4 News at 10. Connect with Kelly on Facebook or follow her on Twitter @KellyCBS4.