First Responders poised to offer medical assistance

November 2, 2015

A vital lifeline for rural south Armagh has finally come to fruition with the long-awaited initiation of the Crossmaglen Community and First Responder scheme, which will begin operating today (Monday).

Following more than twelve months of lobbying and hard work by those behind the initiative, from 6.00pm this evening the first team of the trained First Responders will be on standby, ready to be dispatched should a medical emergency arise.

The volunteers will respond to urgent medical situations across the areas of Crossmaglen, Culloville, Creggan, Glassdrummond, Silverbridge and Cullyhanna and are trained to provide treatment to casualties while awaiting the arrival of appropriate emergency services.

In rural and isolated areas, the existence of such an initiative can mean the difference between life and death while a casualty awaits emergency medical help and, given the often inadequate ambulance response times throughout the district, the scheme has been heralded as a much welcome development for health services in south Armagh.

First Responders will deal with medical emergencies such as victims of heart attacks, strokes, choking, seizures, but will not be deployed to attend trauma calls or dangerous situations.

So far, fifteen local volunteers have completed rigorous training to become emergency responders and are readily available to be dispatched at the same time as an ambulance to provide potentially life saving assistance, bridging the gap  until the arrival of emergency services.

The idea of a First Responders Scheme for the area is the brainchild of local man, Damien Martin, supported by and in partnership with Crossmaglen Community Association.

Damien first came up with the idea while undertaking a course in Emergency Medical Technology in Dublin and is delighted to see the scheme become a reality in Crossmaglen.

Speaking to The Examiner about the life saving initiative, Damien paid tribute to all those who have lobbied tirelessly over the last year to get the scheme off the ground, including Sinn Fein representatives Terry Hearty and Barra O’ Muiri, SDLP Councillor Geraldine Donnelly, as well as Aisling Rennick from the Council’s Action Health Committee and Lorraine Morgan who were “invaluable” in facilitating meetings with NIAS which have enabled the scheme “to get where it is today.”

Describing the importance of such a service, Damien said: “In the event of a person suffering a heart attack or stroke, arrival of medical help within the first eight minutes is critical.  At the minute, this does not happen within our local community.  Recognising early warning signs and administering basic first aid in such situations is crucial.”

Damien also extended his thanks for the “overwhelming support” from local businesses and members of the local community who responded en masse to the fundraising drive in recent months, showing their exceptional generosity, funding medical bags and defibrillators and making monetary donations towards volunteer training.

“I’m so glad we finally got here and are now one of eight First Responder schemes in Northern Ireland,” said Damien,

“From day one we were told it would never happen but we kept going and stuck to our guns. “The implementation of the scheme is particularly important at this time of year. With the predicted bad weather for the forthcoming winter, a First Responders scheme has never been more needed in rural areas in south Armagh.

“None of it could have happened without all the support from local councillors and representatives, the efforts of the Crossmaglen Community Association and the outstanding contributions from the local community and businesses – both in terms of donations and volunteers.  It’s a great day for everyone to finally be going live to serve the people of Crossmaglen and beyond in such a life saving initiative.”

Sinn Fein councillor Terry Hearty has commended all those involved in the First Responders scheme, describing it as a “terrific initiative” which he and his party have fully supported from the outset.

“The First Responders group is not only a good idea but an essential one given the many difficulties in getting ambulances into parts of south Armagh in those vital first few minutes of an emergency.

“I have only the highest praise for all those involved, whether it was through fundraising, promoting the group or indeed those who really gave the initiative their all and put in the hours required for training.    There can be no greater use of a person’s time than to help another, perhaps even save a life, so I have the utmost respect for all those who signed up and donated their time.

“I have no doubt that the group will be a huge success and a vital resource when it comes to responding to emergencies.  As they grow I hope to see them expand into other areas of south Armagh so that no person in the area, no matter where they are, is ever more than a few minutes away from help.”

Members of the public are reminded to always ring 999 in case of emergency and a First Responder volunteer will be dispatched in conjunction with emergency services.