BY NIAMH HAYES
GARDAI are often the first to arrive at the scene of an accident, ahead of medics, and now through a volunteer-led initiative they are being equipped with life saving skills.
Eamonn Barry, Director of West Cork Rapid Response (WCRR) is the co-ordinator of a scheme which is training Gardai to respond to heart attacks, strokes and choking, as well as being able to administer first aid and use defibrillators if needed.
Defibrillators are currently being put in some of the main Garda Stations around West Cork and in time it is hoped that patrol cars will also carry them.
Volunteers from West Cork Rapid Response are all instructors in cardiac first response and are giving up their time freely to train Gardaí to make West Cork a safer place.
Eamonn, from Timoleague said: ‘Members of the Gardaí are often the ones who are on the scene of an emergency first and we wanted to support them by ensuring that they have adequate training to deal with certain situations.’
To date, about 160 gardai in West Cork have trained as cardiac first responders. New recruits complete the training during their time at the Garda College in Templemore, while other members are voluntarily signing up to complete it this year.
As well as that, 12 Gardaí are currently in training to become cardiac first response instructors, which is being provided directly by the National Ambulance Service (NAS) and which means that they will soon be able to roll out the training to people in the community.
Inspector Brian Murphy of Bandon Garda Station says that it is a collaboration which he is delighted to be involved with and one which is very important.
‘Our members are there to assist other agencies if the need ever arises in West Cork. We help to protect people’s lives and now we have the skill-set to help even further,’ said Inspector Murphy.
‘The training gives our members the knowledge to help with a medical emergency while awaiting assistance. Even for talking to the National Ambulance Service over the phone, it gives us the confidence to deal with a situation until paramedics arrive,’ he added.
While it is the volunteers of West Cork Rapid Response who are instructing the course, the National Ambulance Service is very supportive of the initiative and is providing the certification.
Mark Callanan is the Community Engagement Officer of the National Ambulance Service West. He says that they have learned from previous successful trials completed in both the Limerick and Clare Garda divisions.
‘This initiative will see trained Garda members automatically alerted to cardiac arrest events by the National Emergency Operations Centre within the National Ambulance Service. These same trained members, provided they are not already engaged in policing duties, can then safely attend cardiac arrest incidents, enhancing the response from the National Ambulance Service and ultimately benefiting the community and any patients in need throughout West Cork,’ said Mark.
By early next year it is hoped that over 260 Gardaí and civilian support staff based in West Cork will be trained up as cardiac first responders and they will continue to roll out the training as long as demand is there.
‘This is a fantastic example of inter-agency cooperation where communities are being put first. Everyone is working together and collaborating in such an open way and that is what it is all about.' concluded Inspector Brian Murphy.
In a medical emergency, members of the public should continue to dial 999 or 112, and it is the National Emergency Operations Centre, within the National Ambulance Service, that will deploy the Gardaí if suitable.