CURRITUCK, N.C. (WVEC) -- There is new life-saving equipment in Currituck County.

The Fire and EMS department has been awarded a grant to outfit its ambulances with automatic CPR devices, and they're changing the survival rate of sudden cardiac arrest patients across the county.

The machines are called LUCAS chest compression systems, purchased by way of a FEMA assistance grant and a matched portion from the county. In total, the department received $150,000 to equip their ambulances with the life-saving gear. The system saves space and standardizes chest compression to sudden cardiac arrest patients, delivering a necessary steady supply of oxygen to the heart and brain.

Deputy Chief Tim Riley says LUCAS machines are not new to other emergency departments in the area. However, Currituck County is large, rural, and much of it is not close to a hospital.

"Currituck County is basically a peninsula," Riley says. "We're a U-shaped county with a dot in the middle, being Knotts Island. And we do not have a healthcare facility there. So, our average transport time to the hospital is 37 minutes. "During the lengthy ambulance ride, the machine helps keep patients alive."

Riley says since they've been put to use in Currituck County, the value of the LUCAS system to a patient's survival outcome has spoken for itself. "Our goal was to get them out into every ambulance, and we couldn't do that without the grant," Riley says. "We've had 38 cases so far. We've had 12 people that had a return of spontaneous circulation."

According to Riley, the LUCAS machines have not only helped save the lives of sudden cardiac arrest patients, but they have freed up rescuers to perform other vital tasks during the commute to the hospital.