Fast action can save lives: Its a good idea to know what to do if someone experiences a heart attack or cardiac arrest. (NAPS)

The Athenry Community First Responders are one of the longest established Community First Responder (CFR) groups in the county. We are a small network of fourteen responders from the Athenry area that have volunteered our time to learn life saving skills and respond to calls to assist those suffering from life threatening conditions locally. We, as a CFR Group have two main roles in our community

Firstly, we are a ‘live asset’ with the National Ambulance Service. This means that we respond to emergency calls alongside the National Ambulance Service paramedics in a 6km radius of the centre of the town. We are local volunteers who live or work locally and get notifications from the ambulance service when a call comes into their call centre for our cover area for patients suffering from a chest pain, heart attack, stroke, choking or cardiac arrest.

Secondly, we have a number of certified instructors that volunteer their time to provide training to the local community. We run various courses for schools, clubs and other local community groups. These courses include certified CFR courses such as the Heartsaver AED, CFR – Community course and Family and Friends CPR lessons.

What is a cardiac arrest?

Cardiac arrest occurs when the heart malfunctions and stops beating unexpectedly. Cardiac arrest is triggered by an electrical malfunction in the heart that causes an irregular heartbeat. With its pumping action disrupted, the heart cannot pump blood to the brain, lungs and other organs.

Seconds later, a person becomes unresponsive, is not breathing or is only gasping. Death occurs within minutes if the patient does not receive treatment. Cardiac arrest can be reversible in some victims if it’s treated within the first few minutes. Cardiac arrest is treated by CPR and the use of a defibrillator. If a person is not breathing, call for an ambulance and start CPR. Where possible get a defibrillator and use it as soon as possible.

Is a cardiac arrest the same as a heart attack?

No, a cardiac arrest and heart attack are not the same thing. A heart attack is a circulation or plumbing problem. A heart attack occurs when a blocked artery prevents oxygen-rich blood from reaching a section of the heart. If the blocked artery is not reopened quickly, the part of the heart normally nourished by the artery begins to die.

Symptoms of a heart attack may be immediate and may include intense discomfort in the chest or other areas of the upper body, shortness of breath, cold sweats nausea or vomiting. More often, though, symptoms start slowly and persist for hours, days or weeks before a heart attack. Unlike a cardiac arrest, the heart does not stop beating during a heart attack. The longer the person is without treatment, the greater the damage.

Some statistics from 2018

  • There were 2442 cases of out of hospital cardiac arrest in 2018.
  • 68% of these cardiac arrests happened in the home.
  • 50% of the out of hospital cardiac arrests were witnessed by a bystander.
  • 81% of out of hospital cardiac arrest patients had bystander CPR.
  • 22% of out of hospital cardiac arrest patients had a defibrillator used on them before the arrival of EMS.
  • 176 of the 2442 out of hospital cardiac arrest patients were discharged from hospital.
  • 7.2% of all out of hospital cardiac arrest patients survived.

How does it take a community to save a life?

It takes a community to save a life. There are five links in the chain of survival below. The first three links are provided by the local community. These include: Early recognition that the person needs CPR, starting CPR promptly and the early use of a defibrillator. With every minute that passes, the patients chance of survival drops between 10% and 15%.

If people are trained to recognise the need for CPR and call for help immediately it greatly improves the patients chance of survival. When the bystander, local CFR Group and National Ambulance Service off duty responders and ambulance crews all work closely and effectively to give the patient the best chance of surviving.

Know your Eircode

An Eircode can make a huge difference for responders, ambulance crews and all emergency services when responding to an emergency call. This is especially true when responding to a call in the countryside where without the Eircode they would be reliant in directions which are often vague and unclear to the emergency services. This causes there to be a delay in the arrival of help during time critical medical emergencies.

Interested in joining the team?

We are looking for more people to join our team. All training is provided by the Athenry CFR team free of charge. All you need is to be over the age of 18, live or work in the Athenry area and attend training.

Contact us

Athenry CFR Group can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter, Email ( or contacting our coordinator Gearóid on (087) 17 17 783.