Plan for more defibrillators at Council sites

A scene showing how AED (automated external defibrillator) works.
A scene showing how AED (automated external defibrillator) works.

Mid & East Antrim Council is to consider providing additional potentially lifesaving defibrillators at civic facilities throughout the borough.

A report to the local authority’s Community Planning Committee has revealed that 23 council sites have been identified as potential locations for defibrillators (AEDs), of which 14 have been listed as top priority due to higher volumes of staff, usage and level of activity. They include Council’s Ballymena Recycling Centre and its Pennybridge Depot.

Currently, 21 defibrilators are located at various Council facilities/sites throughout the borough including the Seven Towers Leisure Centre, The Braid, Ardeevin, The People’s Park, and Ballymena Showgrounds, which can only be accessed by Council personnel.

Also, numerous community groups, sports clubs, schools, businesses and workplaces have their own defibrillators and six defibrillators are located at community centres in the Ballymena area as a result of donations to the former Ballymena Borough Council by the Ahoghill based Steven Lowry Memorial Trust.

Set up by the family of Ahoghill man, Steven Lowry, who collapsed and died in 2011 aged 27 as a result of a sudden heart attack after sport training, the Trust has since donated numerous defibrillators in his memory which have been stationed in areas popular with sports teams and community groups. Volunteers have been trained in the use of the defibrillators each of which is accompanied by a plaque in memory of Steven.

And at the outset of the committee’s discussion of the report, its Chair, Cllr Paul Maguire stated: “If it had not been for the Steven Lowry Memorial Trust we would not have one public access defibrillator at all in the borough - none, not one.”

The committee went on to agreed the report’s recommendations which included that Council consider the provision of defibrillators at the additional council facilities as detailed and prioritise their purchase (14 defibrillators at a cost of £1,250 each) based on the level of staff, facility usage, age range and type of activity and that Council facilities that have high volumes of employees be considered high priority.

They also agreed Council should engage with the local community and where possible, the defibrillators should be made accessible to the community; that community groups, clubs etc. should be signposted to NI Ambulance Service (NIAS), British Heart Foundation, and Council’s grant scheme for support to purchase defibrillators and training equipment for Priority 2 and 3 listed locations; that delivery of basic life support and defibrillator training provided in-house by Leisure Centre staff registered Training Assessors be considered for roll out to community groups/clubs; and rural communities be signposted to NIAS for First Responder Schemes. The committee-level decisions will, however, have to go before full Council for ratification.

Cllr William McCaughey expressed concern that there could be a “fear element” amongst some members of the public over using a defibrillator and said people needed to know they do not have to be formally trained to do so.