Training is under way for a group of Belford residents who have volunteered to learn how to use the village’s new community defibrillator.
The life-saving machine, which gives the heart an electric shock in some cases of cardiac arrest, is now located in a box fixed on a wall outside of the Bell View Resource Centre building on West Street.
That means it is portable and accessible to the public in an emergency when the village ambulance is out on a call.
Unlike more sophisticated machines used by health professionals, Belford’s automated external defibrillator, or AED, is especially designed for people with no medical background. But it should ideally be used by those who have received basic training.
Nineteen villagers attended the first familiarisation sessions to do just that. The sessions were taken by members of the North East Ambulance Service community resuscitation team, assisted by local first responder volunteers from Seahouses and the Belford paramedic Dave Coogan.
“A defibrillator in any centre of population could save a life,” said one of the project organisers. “The more people who know what they’re for and what you can do with them the better.
“Where we live, there isn’t always an ambulance available. If you can use a defibrillator in the first ten minutes after someone has a heart attack you can make a huge difference to the outcome.”
A defibrillator delivers an electrical current through the chest which aims to shock the heart back into a normal rhythm allowing it to pump again.
Experts say rapid response using the automated technology can significantly improve the quality of life of a survivor, because the potential for damage grows the longer the brain is starved of oxygen.
When applied to a victim, voice commands and screen messages guide users step-by-step through the process.
Money for the defibrillator and box came from the Belford Community First Responders fund, most of which the remainder of a community resuscitation training fund originally administered by retired village GP Dr Pawson.
The equipment was acquired from the Community HeartBeat Trust, a national charity focused on provision of life saving defibrillation services to local communities.
It says: “An AED opens a window for the public to take on a key role to support emergency services who would otherwise be hindered by the time it takes to reach the victim.”