The importance of defibrillators in the community

When someone suffers a cardiac arrest, time is of the essence. If we can get to them quickly, start CPR quickly and get a defibrillator on them quickly, we dramatically improve their chance of survival, but without these vital interventions, the victim will almost certainly die.

There is nowhere more challenging for this to happen than in the community, whether at home, at the shops or at work. Ambulance services will always strive to arrive on scene as fast as they can, but often it is too late.  

With less than 1 in 10 people surviving a cardiac arrest outside of hospital, we must find alternative ways to help. The heart only stays in the right condition for defibrillation to be successful for just a few minutes, so we need that defibrillator on the victim ideally within the first 3-5 minutes if we stand a good chance of saving them.

So when we say “quickly”, the only real way of making this happen reliably, is defibrillators in the community, near the areas we live and work. We know it works and one example of this is Seattle, USA where they have a widespread Public Access Defibrillation scheme and have consistently seen survival rates of 30-40% for almost 20 years.

Defibrillators are highly intelligent pieces of medical equipment that are designed to be used by anyone, this could be healthcare professionals in dental or GP practices, first aiders or a good Samaritan simply passing by and using a Public Access Defibrillator; in fact you don’t even need training to use it.

The defibrillator makes all the decisions for you, so you can be confident in the instructions it is giving you and they are safe to use. So look out for your nearest defibrillator in your community, you’ll be surprised where you might find them! The more defibrillators we see in the community, the more lives will be saved.

Written by Sophie McCracken – Clinical Advisor for ECG 23rd February 2017