AMBULANCE chiefs are appealing to organisations and businesses across the Lothians to become part of a ‘life-saving map’ of defibrillators in the region.
They are compiling a directory of all nearby public defibrillators so that 999 call handlers can direct first aiders to the nearest device in an emergency.
While the scheme is still in its infancy, emergency services hope to be able to build an instantly-searchable database that will help dispatchers cut the amount of time before cardiac arrest victims get a vital shock to their heart by minutes.
The Lothians life-saving map already has 106 locations listed on it, including ten mobile community first responder units equipped with defibrillators.
The venues listed range from rugby clubs to supermarkets, schools to leisure centres. Each has a defibrillator that could save a life, but most passers-by would not know it was there.
The system could help put an end to situations where someone has collapsed in a car park or a street just metres from a defibrillator but still has to wait for an ambulance, increasing the risk of death.
The push to document every public access defibrillator comes as a campaign led by the Jamie Skinner Foundation and backed by the Evening News gathers pace.
Jamie, 13, died from a cardiac arrest while playing football in December. He had an undiagnosed heart condition, and was not defibrillated in time to save his life.
Now his family are fighting to raise awareness of the importance of defibrillators, and help sports clubs and leisure centres across the Lothians get their own life-saving device.
“The person making the 999 call can be directed to the defibrillator as quickly as possible because we know where it is – it could potentially save minutes,” said community resuscitation development officer Bryan Finlay.
After a cardiac arrest, minutes can be the difference between life and death. “Any organisation or business that has a defibrillator and wants to be placed in the system should make themselves known,” Mr Finlay added. “They’ll know that they can be called upon to help someone who might have collapsed around the corner.”
Defibrillators on the map do not just need to be in public buildings such as schools, leisure centres or doctors’ surgeries. They can also be in private businesses, as long as they were accessible.
The crucial thing is that the defibrillators listed on the map are available, charged and in working order when they are called upon. In order to make sure that 999 call handlers send first responders to the right place, participating sites are required to guarantee that their defibrillator will be ready to serve in an emergency.
“What we have to do is make sure that the list we have there is accurate,” said Mr Finlay. “We have to go back and find out whose defibrillator it is, who the responsible person is, and so on. Once they’ve decided that they want to be put into the ambulance service’s system, we will sign a memorandum of understanding with whoever owns the defibrillator. There’s no point putting a defibrillator into the system where we don’t know if it’s still in existence, or if it still works, or if it is accessible.”
The agreement would call on defibrillator owners to check their device every month, and report changes in circumstances or faults.
Private companies are already embracing the scheme. Financial services giant Aegon has been in touch with the Scottish Ambulance Service to have its two defibrillators listed on the map, after one of its staff members had a near miss following a cardiac arrest at work.