The Community First Responders provide a quick initial local response to '000' calls to NSW Ambulance by providing initial emergency care while the ambulance arrives.
The Community First Responder program is an exciting joint initiative of the NSW Ambulance Service and the RFS. It was started in Mt Wilson and Mt Irvine in August 2007 and has been a strong community support enterprise since then.
The Community First Responder program was devised as a practical solution to the health needs of remote communities where an ambulance can take half an hour or more to attend a medical emergency. Mt Wilson and Mt Irvine was the first brigade in NSW to be invited to trial the program.
Community First Responders receive intensive training from NSW Ambulance officers and from Charles Sturt University trainers.
Successful graduates are known as Honorary Ambulance Officer – First Responder and are trained in the skills required to sustain life until an ambulance arrives.
First Responders are qualified to administer CPR techniques and defibrillation in the case of heart attacks, and to administer specified medications. They are able to deal with diabetic emergencies, anaphylaxis (severe and life-threatening allergic reaction), and monitor vital signs until the arrival of qualified medical assistance.
Another vital part of the First Responder's role is to meet the ambulance and escort it to the patient to ensure no time is wasted. They are able to locate and operate all equipment on an ambulance to assist the paramedics once they arrive.
In the case of a medical emergency the immediate response should still be to ring 000. At the same time as the call goes out from the call centre to the ambulance, First Responders will be paged by the call centre and can respond to the patient immediately.
Mt Wilson and Mt Irvine brigade was well placed to provide the state's first batch of First Responders already having a defibrillator sponsored by Citigroup, and two oxygen resuscitation units purchased with community donations.
Once the First Responders are certified, each person is supplied with a personal kit and the brigade also has a kit kept at the Mt Wilson Fire Station. NSW RFS provided a Personnel Carrier vehicle for transport and the Ambulance Service provides the Brigade with portable radios to enable the First Responders to brief paramedics on the patient's status and receive advice while the ambulance is travelling towards them.
We have received wonderful support from NSW Ambulance officers at Lithgow and trainers from Charles Sturt University in Bathurst. We are very grateful for their support.