‘Locking up AEDs isn’t the ideal solution – you wouldn’t lock up a fire extinguisher.’
Following the damage and theft of public access two defibrillators over the weekend, Community First Responders are calling for cross-party support for strict penalties on people who steal or damage them.
Public Access Defibrillators (PAD) which were donated by the Order of Malta in Drogheda, Co. Louth and Wicklow Town CFRs, Co. Wicklow following local fundraising efforts were stolen from their cases.
CFR Ireland is calling for cross party support for the Life Saving Equipment Bill 2018 which would impose a maximum sentence of 5 years imprisonment or a €50,000 fine or both for those convicted of interfering with a defibrillator or life buoy.
CFRs and other voluntary groups around the country have given endless hours of their own time to help raise funds to purchase and install these lifesaving devices.
Dr David Menzies, Medical Director of CFR Ireland said: “Damage to, or theft of a defibrillator installed for public use could be a death sentence for a patient if it were not available for a patient in cardiac arrest as a result. It is that serious. Locking up AEDs isn’t the ideal solution – you wouldn’t lock up a fire extinguisher.”
In the event of a cardiac arrest, CPR and defibrillation within the first 10 minutes is the most important intervention. The patient’s chances of survival drop by 10% for every minute treatment is delayed. There are estimated to be over 13,000 AEDs in Ireland.
Similar incidents have also been reported in recent months and years in counties Meath, Bray, Arklow, Limerick and Cork. John Fitzgerald, Chair of CFR Ireland said: “CFR Ireland believes that strict penalties should apply to those guilty of theft of or damage to life saving devices such as defibrillators. The issue of defibrillator theft and damage is not new, it is time for action. I would also appeal to those who took the AEDS to return them.”
Yesterday, Ger O’ Dea, Community Engagement Officer of the National Ambulance Service said “CFR groups work tirelessly and selflessly to raise funds for these machines and to have one stolen or vandalised is appalling and may be the difference between life or death in a cardiac situation.”
What is a Community First Responder?
Community First Responders (CFRs) are civilian responders who are trained to international standards in cardiopulmonary resuscitation and defibrillation. They are part of a local CFR scheme, linked to the National Ambulance Service. When the emergency services are alerted to a cardiac arrest, chest pain, choking or stroke, a civilian responder from the local CFR scheme is automatically dispatched along with the ambulance services. The local CFRs can often attend the scene before an ambulance will arrive, and in cases where time is critical such as cardiac arrest, this can save lives. Currently there are over 250 CFR schemes around the country, all linked to the National Ambulance Service.
What is an AED?
Automatic External Defibrillators (AEDs) are sometimes also referred to as a Public Access Defibrillatos (PAD)s are a device which can be used by a lay person with little or no training to successfully restart the heart of a patient in cardiac arrest. These devices are often charitably funded and need to be kept in heated cabinets in cold weather. The typical cost of an AED and cabinet is well over €1,500.
What is the Life Saving Equipment Bill?
The Life Saving Equipment Bill was initiated in 2017 by Senator Keith Swanick. It proposes penalties of up to 5 years imprisonment and €50,000 fine for those convicted of theft or, or damage to, a defibrillator or life buoy. CFR Ireland was glad to support this bill when it was proposed. It is now stalled in the houses of the Oireachtas.
Anyone with any information is asked to contact gardaí in Drogheda, Co. Louth, Rathnew, Co. Wicklow or any garda station.
CFR activity is entirely voluntary. More information about the network and how to establish a CFR scheme can be found on the website: www.cfr.ie.