More than 300 new automatic cardiopulmonary resuscitation devices will be distributed to emergency rooms and ambulances around the state through a $4 million grant, an initiative that could help save the lives of patients requiring extensive cardiac care, the Minnesota Department of Health said Friday.

One of these mechanical CPR devices helped keep Tim Franko of New Richmond, Wis., alive for nearly three hours — believed to be a world record — last year after he suffered a heart attack while clearing brush in the heat.

More than 400 Lucas Chest Compression System devices are in use in the Twin Cities. They are made by Physio-Control, based in Redmond, Wash., which also makes emergency medical systems software products in Duluth.

Money for the new devices came from a grant by the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust. The trust’s Rural Healthcare Program has awarded more than $220 million to organizations and initiatives in the Upper Midwest, including $7 million for the purchase of 400 Lucas resuscitation devices in the Dakotas in the past year.

“This is part of our efforts to ensure quality health care for all Minnesotans,” said Commissioner of Health Dr. Ed Ehlinger. “Our goal is to improve cardiac arrest survival rates by installing these devices in every ambulance and hospital in the state.”

While the devices are common in the metro area, Ehlinger said, “they are very sparse in rural Minnesota.” He said he hopes to begin distributing the devices statewide and training technicians on them early next year.

Time is crucial when a person’s heart stops beating; death can occur within minutes. Manual CPR can keep a person alive, but fatigue produces inconsistent results. Automated chest compression devices have proved more effective at delivering consistent compressions for longer periods.

Ehlinger said Minnesota has a good emergency medical system. Fourteen percent of people who suffer a cardiac arrest in Minnesota survive. That’s nearly three times the national rate. But the survival rate for cardiac arrest in rural Minnesota is about 3 percentage points lower than in the Twin Cities, he said.

Ehlinger said the Lucas devices should improve those results by eliminating human factors of fatigue and inconsistent compressions. He praised the Helmsley trust for the initiative.

“Helmsley has been actively looking around and saying, ‘Where is there a gap in services?’ ” Ehlinger said.