People under 70 invited to train as ‘first responders’

A Co Galway paramedic is spearheading a drive to train people as community “first responders” in a bid to save lives in his local area.

Mark Callanan, a paramedic with the national ambulance service who lives in Athenry, is hopeful that a number of people will volunteer and complete the course. They can then be called on to attend emergencies.

The team’s aim will be to reach a potential life-threatening emergency in the first vital minutes before an ambulance crew arrives on the scene.

“Once we are operational, when an ambulance is called into the area for certain calls, we will be dispatched at the same time,” he says “Those living in Athenry will get there first because they won’t be travelling the distance from Galway or Ballinasloe hospitals.”

Anyone interested in becoming a community first responder should be physically fit and aged between 18 and 70 years. A free introductory talk will be held in the New Park Hotel, Athenry on Monday March 11 at 8pm.

Mr Callanan explains a responder’s role will be to help stabilise patients and try to keep them alive until the arrival of an ambulance crew who are trained to undertake further lifesaving techniques.

“Life threatening emergencies such as choking, cardiac arrests and stroke are time critical. Athenry Community First Responders will be trained to manage these situations as best they can and assist the frontline professionals.”

The Athenry paramedic decided to start this course based on his own experiences.

“I’ve been involved with community groups for years and for me the next logical step was to impart my skills and techniques to others so that they too can help save lives. This is for everybody - the person in the street or someone playing hurling.”

Athenry Senator Lorraine Higgins has commended Mark for undertaking such a “great lifesaving initiative.

“Everything he proposes to do on this course will be completely voluntary. He is giving up his free time to help save lives in our community which is very rewarding thing to do. Hopefully others will recognise the importance of this course and take it up. Not only will it help save lives but it also gives people an opportunity to gain another qualification”.

She continued: “Anyone who undertakes this course will feel very proud knowing that they may some day contribute to saving someone’s life.”

Mr Callanan hopes that many people will become responders in Athenry. “This would enable a rota system to be set up, improving the response times to incidents across the area. There seems to be a lot of community responders in the rural community but not so many in towns. I don’t know why that is.

The average time community first responders are expected to reach their destination is three to four minutes and this quick response may make a major difference in relation to saving someone’s life.

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