Plans for defibrillator network across 300 shops a real lifesaver
Hundreds of new defibrillators will be installed across shops in Northern Ireland in a bid to help save the lives of people suffering a heart attack.
The plans, revealed today, will create the largest external network of lifesaving devices in the province.
The 300 pieces of equipment, which can shock the heart back to life, will be available in Spar, EuroSpar and Vivo stores by next year.
They will be fitted from December outside stores in special temperature controlled cabinets that are fully accessible 24/7.
Northern Ireland Chief Medical Officer Dr Michael McBride is backing the new campaign, spearheaded by Hendersons, to install AEDs (automated external defibrillators) outside their stores.
With around 1,400 cardiac arrests occurring each year in the province outside of hospitals, of which fewer than 10% of people will survive, it is vital bystanders perform CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) and make use of an AED if readily available.
It has been proven that early CPR and defibrillator shock are vital to a person's chances of surviving a cardiac arrest.
CPR should be started as soon as possible, while calling the emergency 999 number.
Community and store fundraising at each outlet signed up will pay for the devices.
They will cost £1,500 to purchase along with the temperature controlled cabinet and the cost of installation.
The stores are working with the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service to ensure effective mapping of the devices.
Dr McBride said the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety supported the initiative; "The addition of these external, public access defibrillators to our network of lifesavers across Northern Ireland is very welcome," he added.
The Department of Health launched the Community Resuscitation Strategy in 2014 with the aim of improving the survival rate for out-of-hospital cardiac arrests.
"This campaign complements the strategy and we hope that more lives can be saved in the future," he said.
It comes weeks after the Belfast Telegraph reported how the life of Loughgiel man Paddy Watson was saved by Dunloy hurling club's defibrillator.
After feeling weak at the start of the second half of a game, Paddy suffered a coronary and was saved by quick-thinking medics. The father of 2010 All-Star nominee hurler Liam Watson was able to walk his daughter down the aisle two weeks later.
Bronagh Luke, who has pioneered the campaign with her colleagues at Henderson's, said: "We will have an education campaign running alongside the fundraising campaigns both digitally via specially produced 'how to use' videos, and with printed, practical information readily available in-store.
"We know it is not enough to only have the devices in situ. Education on community resuscitation and defibrillator usage is a priority."
The campaign has been gaining the support of sports stars, actors, musicians and local personalities to push the fundraising message further for all communities to get involved in raising cash for the devices.
Find out more at www.heartofourcommunityni.com.