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Volunteers needed for life-saving First Responders teams around Dereham

PUBLISHED: 08:22 21 February 2014 | UPDATED: 08:22 21 February 2014

Richard Townsend, Dereham First Responders

Richard Townsend, Dereham First Responders


A life-saving volunteer team trained to respond in the crucial first moments of a medical emergency has issued an urgent call for new recruits in the Dereham area.

Community First Responders (CFRs) are local teams, trained and equipped with mobile defibrillators and oxygen, who can react to 999 calls and can give vital care and resuscitation, keeping cardiac patients alive while ambulance paramedics are on their way to the scene.

Currently there are five volunteers covering Dereham, Toftwood, Beetley and Gressenhall, and another two covering Swanton Morley, North Elmham, Hoe and Elsing.

But CFR team leader Richard Townsend wants to build the teams up to 15 or 20 people in each group, and extend the latter as far as Bawdeswell.

He said: “The East of England Ambulance Service is so busy and as soon as they start their shift the ambulances are called out from Dereham and there’s very little emergency cover.

“If you have got a cardiac arrest you really need someone to get there in four minutes for them to stand any chance of surviving. This is the whole reason the group was set up. The quicker we can get to someone the better chance we have of helping them.

“I want to try and get 15-20 volunteers on each side. I like to get people to offer about 20 hours per month – we find out what times everybody is available and, if they’re free, they are given the kit. It works reasonably well but there is a lack of daytime cover during the week because everyone is at work.”

Mr Townsend said CFRs are despatched by 999 control rooms to respond to patients with chest pains, suspected cardiac arrests or choking, but are not sent to road accidents, which require specialist trauma training.

But he said no previous medical knowledge is required of anyone prepared to volunteer their time.

“It is really open to anyone, and there is no medical background needed, as the training is all given,” he said. “I came in from nothing. I didn’t even have a first aid certificate, so it is proof that you can just walk in. There is a weekend training course, but we offer extra training as well.

“I have been doing it for six years. If you have got the chance of saving someone’s life because the ambulance crew is coming from miles away, that’s fantastic. The more people we can train up to use the equipment, the more lives we can save.”

For more information about joining the Community First Responders, call Mr Townsend on 07715 865165 or

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