What is a Community First Responder?
A Community First Responder is a local volunteer who agrees to undertake training in order to be able to provide life saving treatment to those people within the local community who are critically injured or ill in the few minutes prior to the arrival of an ambulance.
Why do we need Community First Responders?
We know that in many medical emergencies and after accidents, people can die within the first few minutes. We also know that if certain simple but critical interventions can be performed within those first few minutes that life can be saved and disability reduced. This is especially the case for heart attacks, choking and injuries that have caused someone to lose consciousness.
Even the best ambulance service in the world cannot always get to every 999 call within the first few minutes, especially in countryside areas or large commercial complexes. There is a period of time between the 999 call being made and the ambulance arriving in which little or no emergency care takes place. This time period has been called the ‘therapeutic vacuum’. We know that community-based first responders can fill this vacuum and provide essential simple treatment in those crucial first few minutes.
In recent years, advances in technology have been made, and many interventions which were previously performed only by highly trained individuals are now available to people with much less training. These include small, easy to operate ‘automated external defibrillators’ (AEDs) and lightweight oxygen delivery systems.
With the right training, equipment and support, Community First Responders can work alongside the Ambulance Service and provide the best pre-hospital care that is possible. The East Midlands Ambulance Service provides the organisational framework within which volunteers in the community can be trained and equipped to become Community First Responders.
How is a Community First Responder trained?
The East Midlands Ambulance Service provides, free of charge, specific first responder training which covers all the skills and knowledge that a Community First Responder needs. This training will be provided by experienced trainers and will reflect the best of current first aid and emergency care practice in the UK and typically lasts for 4-6 days spread over a period of time. Each Community First Responder has to prove that they are up to the standard by completing written and practical tests at the end of the training. They will also undergo refresher training and assessment at least once a year.
The group also meets monthly to practice and discuss issues.
How are Lutterworth Community First Responders organised?
The Lutterworth scheme, which also covers the surrounding villages, is a locally managed group of volunteers who elect a local co-ordinator and plan their own ‘on-call’ rota to cover their own community. We meet monthly to organise fund raising, training etc. and to have a catch up.
How does the First Responder get to the patient?
Whenever the Ambulance Service receives a 999 call from the Lutterworth area which indicates a situation that is considered immediately life threatening, the Community First Responders currently ‘on call’ will be contacted directly. The 999 caller will be told that the Community First Responders are on the way and that they will also be backed up by an ambulance as soon as possible.
The Community First Responders will usually drive to the scene. If driving is involved, it will be under the Highway Code in the volunteers’ own, unmarked, cars and no special dispensation will be made for breaking the law. On arrival, the Community First Responders will have all the training and equipment necessary to manage the patient in those first few critical minutes before the ambulance arrives. In many cases, the Community First Responders may not actually be required to do anything other than reassure the patient and make sure that the ambulance is able to find the location. In some circumstances however, we believe that the Community First Responders may save life. This may be as a result of simple airway opening manoeuvres, defibrillation or treating choking.
The Community First Responders will always be backed up by an ambulance.
What happens after the incident?
An important aspect of any Community First Responder Scheme is support for the volunteers and analysis of the impact of the scheme in the community. There may be times when despite all our efforts, a patient dies or has already died before help arrives. This can be distressing for everyone involved and the East Midlands Ambulance Service has many years of experience in helping people deal with these experiences. They recognise that dealing with an emergency situation can be stressful, especially if the patient is known to the Community First Responders. There will always be someone who can talk through the incidents and the emotions they evoke.
At each incident, the Community First Responders will record information about the interventions they performed and their effects. Critical information such as the times the Community First Responders mobilised and arrived at the scene, and the actions they took, are recorded by Ambulance Control.
What about the cost of all this?
The cost of training is borne by the East Midlands Ambulance Service. A complete set of equipment costs about £3000 which is paid for by donations and other fund raising.
Who will have the time to do this?
Volunteers can give as much or as little time as they wish. During the time they are on call the volunteers can carry on doing whatever they wish at home and so it is not particularly onerous. If something unexpected crops up then you simply log off. Many, but not all, volunteers are retired and wish to “put something back into the community”.
This time commitment is not onerous. Remember – that call may be a life saved and there is no greater feeling than being responsible for having saved life.
What if a mistake is made?
The nature of the Community First Responder scheme is that local people are trained in simple and safe techniques which can be used to save life. These techniques are rarely, if ever, associated with causing harm and in true life and death situations, there is often little harm that can be done compared to doing nothing at all. All Community First Responders are trained to a high standard and will be expected to operate within a code of practice. There has never been a case of a volunteer first responder being sued for alleged mistakes during attempts to save life.
How do I get involved?
Initially fill in the contact us section of this website. One of our senior people will contact you to discuss the options and arrange an interview.
After an initial meeting which gives us and you an opportunity to find out more, you will be asked to join our group. Following this a Criminal Records Check will be done (this is mandatory for all volunteers dealing with vulnerable people). Then training will be arranged. All this is at no cost to you.This may take several months during which you will be given the opportunity to respond with an experienced person and do a shift with the ambulance service Fast Response Crew. This is months of experience crammed into one day and is well worth doing.