Shrewsbury – Friends Bill Cummins, Walt Josti and Dr. Harvey Clermont teamed up recently to bring a piece of equipment to town that, in time, could save the lives of residents and firefighters. The Rad-57 CO Oximeter measures how much carbon monoxide (CO)someone has inhaled just by placing a simple lead on the tip of the person’s finger. The Shrewsbury Fire Department was presented one recently by Josti and Clermont.
Cummins, a captain in the Shrewsbury Fire Department, has been charting the number of calls the department receives from residents when their carbon monoxide alarm is activated. The calls have increased, Cummins explained, since the installation of CO alarms in homes became a requirement.
When the Fire Department receives a call about a CO alarm going off, Cummins explained, it sends a truck out and part of the call is measuring how many parts per million of carbon monoxide is in the home.
“The safe level is 35 parts per million of CO2 in the home,” Cummins said. “Higher than that and you are concerned with how much carbon monoxide the resident has ingested.”
When more than 35 parts per million of CO2 is detected in a home, the residents at home at the time of the alarm are transported to the hospital, where tests are done to determine how much CO2 has been ingested.
“The Rad-57 will allow us to do those tests right at the scene,” Cummins said,” and in many instances treat the issue right at the scene with oxygen.”
Another reason to get the Rad-57, in particular, which interested Cummins, is that the device also measures how much cyanide is in a person’s bloodstream as well.
“Every fire we go to creates cyanide,” Cummins said. “Cyanide at a fire is created from combustible products.”
Cummins said cyanide is most prevalent at fires at the end, during a procedure called overhauling.
“Overhauling is when you’re cleaning up and looking for hot spots,” Cummins said. “That’s a time when firefighters have a tendency to take off their masks, and that’s the worst time to do so because that’s when cyanide is in the air the most.”
Cummins said he has read several studies on cyanide in the bloodstream that state that it has been the direct cause of heart attacks among firefighters at working fires in several instances.
“So I thought if we could get a Rad-57 we could not only help the public on CO calls, but we could help monitor ourselves at working fires for cyanide levels,” Cummins said.
Cummins, a veteran and a member of the Ray Stone American Legion Post, brought the idea to Josti, who jumped on board, and Clermont, who lives in Shrewsbury and sponsors and conducts free blood pressure, weight and general health clinics at the Senior Center, as well as running the town’s youth vaccine program.
“The philosophy of the American Legion is that we’re not here only to service the needs of veterans,” Josti said, “but also to contribute to the needs of community. So we, as a Legion Post, felt this was a very worthwhile project to involve ourselves in in contribution to the community.”
Clermont felt much the same way.
“There’s a very obvious need to me for this,” Clermont said. “It something I wanted to support. I think it’s important for the town to have this.”
Josti, on behalf of the Legion Post, and Clermont teamed up to split the cost of the Rad-57, about $4,000, which was delivered to the Fire Department earlier this month.