Respond 2017

  • Over 450 attend 4th National First Responder Conference

  • International expert says Ireland is the only country with a National First Responder Network

  • National Ambulance Service and CFR Ireland sign Joint Framework

CFR Ireland, the First Responder Network, held its fourth annual conference, #Respond2017, on 4th March in Mullingar.


The event, which was opened by the Director of the National Ambulance Service, Mr Martin Dunne and the Director General of the HSE, Tony O’Brien, hosted over 450 attendees from all over Ireland. Building on the success of previous events, this year’s event focused on the theme ‘a culture of excellence’.

Joint Framework

The conference opened with Martin Dunne, Director of the National Ambulance Service signing a Joint Framework for CFRs with John Fitzgerald and David Menzies of CFR Ireland. This framework maps how both NAS and CFR Ireland will work together to expand the network of first responders in Ireland. 

Conference Highlights

The conference heard from renowned international expert on resuscitation, Professor Richard Lyon. Prof Lyon stressed the importance being prepared as a key link in the chain of survival and highlighted that Ireland is the only country in the world with a national CFR organisation.

Delegates heard from Out of Hospital Cardiac Arrest Survivor Cathal Joyce, who told his very personal story of how he sustained a cardiac arrest playing sport and was successfully resuscitated. Cathal shared his thoughts on cardiac rehabilitation and the mental health of cardiac arrest survivors.

Also speaking were Dave Bywater, Consultant Paramedic Scottish Ambulance Service and Lisa McInnes, Save a Life for Scotland. They shared their experiences on starting Scotland’s ambitious out of hospital cardiac arrest strategy.

In keeping with previous years, an expanded selection of interactive workshops was available to delegates on topics including: Pit Crew CPR, Paediatrics, Patient Assessment, CISM, Difficult Calls and Social Media.

National Ambulance Service practitioners facilitating an interactive Pit Crew CPR workshop with CFR delegates at the conference.

Out of Hospital Cardiac Arrest Strategy Group

Siobhan Masterson, project manager, announced how a National Out of Hospital Cardiac Arrest Strategy group had been formed to formulate a strategy, similar to Scotland’s, for Ireland, aiming to increase survival rates.

Geoff King Award

The winner of the Dr Geoff King Award for someone who has gone the ‘extra mile’ in strengthening the chain of survival in their community, was presented by Geoff’s son Finnian to Margaret Duggan of Greystones CFRs. Margaret, has been an active member of Greystones CFRs for over 11 years.


Closing the conference, Jacqueline Burke, chair of PHECC reiterated their commitment to CFRs and CFR Ireland and looked forward to a productive year in improving outcomes from cardiac arrest.

Approximately 15 people die from cardiac arrest in Ireland every day. Dr David Menzies, Co-Chair and Medical Director of CFR Ireland said:

“The rate of survival from cardiac arrest is completely dependent on the speed of response. The best chance of survival is defibrillation within the first 10 minutes.” For every one minute without treatment, the chances of survival drop by 10%.

“2015, the most recent year for which we have complete data, showed an increase in the rates of bystander CPR and defibrillation prior to ambulance arrival. Through the expansion of CFR schemes, we can increase this further still and ensure less people die” said Dr Menzies.

John Fitzgerald, Co-Chair of CFR Ireland stated:

“Only 6.9% of people who suffer cardiac arrest outside of a hospital environment actually survive. In 2017, we aim to double the number of CFR schemes around the country, increase the numbers of AEDs registered and increase the number of survivors of out of hospital cardiac arrest.”

“We are very grateful to PHECC, Irish Heart, the NAS and all our sponsors for making this event accessible to so many. The demand for places exceeds supply and we are looking to expand the event again in 2018”.

For more information, please contact:
Dr David Menzies, CFR Ireland: (087) 6914504
John Fitzgerald, CFR Ireland: (085) 7010383

Further information

Community First Responders (CFRs) are civilian responders who are trained to international standards in cardiopulmonary resuscitation and defibrillation. They are part of a local CFR scheme, which is linked to the National Ambulance Service. When the emergency services are alerted to a case of cardiac arrest, chest pain, choking or stroke, a civilian responder from the local CFR scheme is automatically dispatched to the scene along with the ambulance services.

The local CFRs can often attend the scene before an ambulance will arrive, and in cases where time is critical such as cardiac arrest, this can save lives. Currently there are almost 150 CFR schemes around the country, all linked to the National Ambulance Service, with another 50 in the start-up phase. Cardiac First Responder Schemes are completely voluntary.  We receive no central funding. We self manage the scheme under the guidance of the National Ambulance Service. All the above commitment, training, fund raising and organization is carried out by the volunteers, ordinary people, living in small communities, in rural, on their own time and at their own expense.

First Responders are only dispatched to chest pain, breathing difficulties, choking, stroke and cardiac related calls within a 5-kilometre radius of their Communities. Because the people “on  call” live or work in their area, they can respond in minutes and provide emergency measures and reassurance until the Ambulance Service arrives.

Why do we need Community First Responder Schemes?

To enforce the “Chain of Survival”, Early Access, Early CPR and early defibrillation.

Community First Responders Objectives

The First Responder’s objective is to be on the scene of a suspected Heart Attack or Cardiac Arrest within 10 minutes of receiving the Emergency SMS from Ambulance Control. After arriving at the scene our First Responders will be:

  • Clearing and controlling the airway of an unconscious patient
  • Providing resuscitation and defibrillation if necessary
  • Making them feel more comfortable and at ease
  • Taking basic observations
  • Reassuring worried relatives and taking charge of the situation
  • Using local knowledge to ensure that the Ambulance can find the location quickly.

Some facts

  1. In Ireland 5,000 people die each year from cardiac arrest, thirteen people every day.These people are going about their daily lives, at home, work, shopping, at sports events collapse and die without warning.

  2. 70% to 80% of these collapses happen in the presence of family or friends.

  3. After suffering a cardiac arrest, for every minute that passes, the chances of recovery are reduced by 7% to 10%.

  4. The current survival rate of Out‐of‐Hospital Cardiac Arrest (OOHCA) in Ireland is 6.9%. ref the Irish OOHCA Register.

  5. The current survival rate of OOHCA in Seattle, USA is 39.9%.

Lisa McInnes (Save a Life for Scotland) and Dave Bywater (Scottish Ambulance Service) with John Fitzgerald (CFR Ireland)