accessibility & help

Dial 999 for defibrillator

2 April 2013

Forget simply making a call – one phone box in Northern Ireland has been fitted with a life-saving defibrillator that could save people’s lives in emergencies.

A BT phone kiosk in County Down has been custom-fitted with an automated external defibrillator (AED), which can make a critical difference if someone has a cardiac arrest.

So how does it work? The defibrillator is housed in the kiosk in a high-vis, vandal-resistant cabinet. If there’s an emergency, anyone can phone 999 then open it under instruction from the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service.

Local support

Among local residents, there has been a keen appetite for the project. First, they raised £4,000 to fund it – then around 100 villagers and business people also signed up for Red Cross first aid courses.

Needless to say, there are now plenty of people on hand who know how to operate the device. One of them, local butcher Denis Andrews, came along to help launch the project. 

The original phone-box-as-defibrillator idea was a collaborative effort between Queen’s University, the local GP and the Red Cross. Soon, BT and Down District Council (which originally bought the phone kiosk for just one pound) added their support.

Life-saver

Crossgar is the first location in Northern Ireland to boast such a useful phone box feature – though the Red Cross hopes more will follow. 

Paula Powell, first aid manager, said: “We encourage other towns and villages in Northern Ireland to think about their own resilience. This is an innovative way to provide round-the-clock access to a defibrillator and, most importantly, get local communities trained in first aid.”

Local GP Dr Nigel Hart said: “Apart from benefiting our own local community we have a lot of visitors to the village. A defibrillator in the centre of the town will be a real asset and could help save lives in the future.”

Conal Duffy, BT’s consumer director in Northern Ireland, added: “It’s gratifying to see one of these rarely used boxes given a new lease of life.”

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