Crossgar: village of lifesavers
Published 19/03/2013 | 00:00
The village of Crossgar, population just 1,500, is quite possibly the best location outside of a hospital in Northern Ireland to suffer a heart attack.
That's because the small County Down community has come together to launch a pioneering initiative aimed at saving lives. More than 100 people in the village have signed up for first aid courses as part of a project aimed at tackling heart disease.
At the centre of the campaign is the village phone box.
At first glance the glass-panelled kiosk seems unremarkable – but it can be transformed into a potential lifesaver in seconds.
An Automated External Defibrillator, which can diagnose and treat life-threatening heart problems, has been installed in the BT kiosk at the junction of Station Road and Downpatrick Street in the village.
The community raised £4,000 to fund it and around 100 residents and business people took part in first aid courses organised by the Red Cross.
With so many residents in the village trained to use the equipment, the hope is that someone will always be near in the event of a heart emergency. The initiative is being run by BT, the British Red Cross, Down District Council and the Crossgar community.
It is the first payphone in Northern Ireland to be fitted with the lifesaving equipment.
Available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, the defibrillator is housed in the kiosk in a high-visibility, vandal-resistant heated cabinet. It can be activated by calling 999 and following instructions.
The idea of housing a defibrillator in the phone box came from a collaboration between Queen's University's medical faculty, Dr Nigel Hart from the village surgery and the Red Cross.
The phone box was bought by the council for £1 as part of BT's Adopt A Kiosk scheme as it was no longer needed as a working payphone in the area.
Dr Hart said many lives could be saved by the scheme.
"Apart from benefiting our own local community we have a lot of visitors to the village," he said. "A defibrillator in the centre of the town will be a real asset and could help save lives in the future."
And if effective, the scheme is something which could be found in other towns.
Paula Powell, a community-based first aid manager for the Red Cross, said she hoped other communities would follow Crossgar's lead.
"We would encourage other towns and villages in Northern Ireland to think about their own resilience," she said.
"They may already have defibrillators in the community, but do enough people know how to access and use them? This is an innovative way to enable 24/7 access to a defibrillator and most importantly of all, to have the local community fully involved and first aid trained."
Conal Duffy, BT's consumer director in Northern Ireland, said it was satisfying to see rarely used boxes given a new lease of life.
"Over the years, many people have said that their local phone box was a lifeline," he said.
"Now that most people have access to a phone at home or a mobile that's no longer true, but a kiosk fitted with defibrillator is a genuine asset to a community and could be a real lifesaver in the future."