St John WA defibrillator program saving lives of cardiac arrest victims

St John WA hopes defibrillators become as common as fire extinguishers and smoke alarms, and is encouraging businesses, community groups and sporting clubs around Busselton and Dunsborough to register in their Community First Responder program.

The CFR program aims to get defibrillators to cardiac arrest victims in the vital moments before an ambulance arrives, dramatically increasing a person's chance of survival.

There are more than 80 sites around Busselton and Dunsborough which are currently registered with St John WA.

The program is aiming to register 5000 CFR locations in WA by Christmas and is calling on the community to help.

When an emergency call is received, the operator is able to direct the caller or bystanders to a nearby defibrillator while an ambulance is en-route.

The program is linked with St John's First Responder smartphone app, which shows the location of all CFR sites and alerts registered first aiders who are in the vicinity of an unfolding public emergency.

Importantly, the app also allows people to dial triple zero and provides GPS coordinates to help paramedics easily locate the patient.

St John CFR manager Sally Simmonds said the Community First Responder program created a vital link between St John, local businesses and community groups which made early defibrillation possible.

"A cardiac arrest can affect anyone regardless of age, gender or health status," she said.

"More than 33,000 Australians die from the condition each year, and the single biggest factor in improving survival rates is the time taken to administer early CPR and defibrillation.

"In Busselton and Dunsborough we are fortunate to have several CFR locations, however, we are encouraging more community groups, sporting clubs and businesses to come on board as we close in on our target of 5000 locations across WA."

Not to be confused with a heart attack, a sudden cardiac arrest occurs when the normal rhythm of the heart is unexpectedly interrupted. This disruption stops the heart's capacity to pump blood around the body.

A sudden cardiac arrest is a life threatening condition, survival is dependent on immediate assistance rendering defibrillation and cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

It can strike regardless of age, gender or health status. Around 33,000 Australians die every year from the condition.

The single key contributing factor to improving survival rates of a person having a sudden cardiac arrest is the time taken to administer earlyCPR and defibrillation.

Studies have shown when CPR and defibrillation are administered within five minutes of a cardiac arrest patient survival rates are significantly higher.

Ms Simmonds said the response to the CFR program has been nothing short of amazing and they were already seeing the benefits of this collaborative approach translate to improved outcomes.

"Last year, St John WA recorded a 50 per cent increase in out-of-hospital cardiac arrest survival rates with 172 survivors, compared with 113 the previous year," she said.

"Such a sharp increase is virtually unheard of, and one of the factors has been better access to defibrillation.

"If someone has received quality bystander CPR and defibrillation before paramedics arrive, it dramatically increases the likelihood of us getting them to hospital alive."

For more information on how to become a CFR location call (08) 9334 1428 or email first.responder@stjohnambulance.com.au.

Download the St John First Responder App to find your nearest CFR location.