A pilot project is now being rolled out in Killarney, Co Kerry, and in Kilkenny, with the aim of having 25% of the population in both areas trained to administer cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) by the year end.
Irish Community Rapid Response, a voluntary group working in partnership with and supporting existing emergency services, is concerned that just 6% of those who suffer a cardiac arrest in Ireland are saved.
Group founder and chief executive, John Kearney, said the equivalent of two jumbo jets full of people die unnecessarily every year in Ireland from cardiac arrest because they do not receive CPR in time.
“The national plan is to train 50% of the general population trained to act in the event of a cardiac arrest over the next 10 years so that at least two people in every household will have a basic knowledge of CPR and automated external defibrillator (AED),” said Mr Kearney.
Mr Kearney said Operation Resuscitation would make Killarney and Kilkenny the best areas in Ireland to survive a cardiac arrest.
“But it will be down to every home, school, workplace and sports club playing their part to make this happen,” he said.
University College Dublin’s Centre for Emergency Medicine, Killarney, and Beaufort defibrillator groups, together with many other groups and individuals are supporting the initiative.
“It takes as little as 60 minutes to learn the basics of CPR in order to save a life. Over 70% of cardiac arrests happen in the home so having someone nearby trained to administer CPR is vitally important,” said Mr Kearney.
He believes the campaign could save up to 400 lives every year.
The campaign is being backed by Dr Fiona Gallagher and Dr John Geaney, parents of Killarney teenager Tom Geaney, who made a full recovery after a cardiac arrest a year ago. The 17-year-old, who had no history of a heart condition, would have died if his friends and soccer coach did not know how to administer CPR and operate a defibrillator.
Irish Community Rapid Response teams, first established in West Cork in 2009, can be called upon to deal with life-threatening emergencies in their area.
“It is all about having the right person at the right place at the right time,” said Mr Kearney.