A POTENTIALLY life-saving defibrillator is to be installed at the Alice Holt Forest visitor centre, just three months after a man suffered a cardiac arrest and died at the local woodland.
Crucially, the cabinet will be kept unlocked for use by any member of the public, at any time of day, in the event of an emergency – and maintained by the Aston Defibrillator Fund.
The importance of defibrillators, and their key role in increasing the survivability of cardiac arrests, was underlined this week by an incident in the Denmark v Finland match at the European football championships.
In the 41st minute of the match, Danish midfield Christian Eriksen collapsed on the pitch after suffering a cardiac arrest, and was revived only after the intervention of a defibrillator.
Alice Holt Forest has a defibrillator on site but until now it has been kept indoors, in a room at the visitor centre, locked outside of normal opening hours and for the use by staff only.
The Herald understands that Forestry England had twice been offered PADs for the site by the local parkrun group, but had refused, citing concerns over “vandalism and liability”.
The folly of this decision was tragically brought to bear on March 28 when a man collapsed at the local woodland and died, after first responders found the site’s defibrillator was locked in Alice Holt’s visitor centre.
One of those first responders, Keir Hall, later described the lack of a PAD at the popular woodland visited by thousands of people every day as “scandalous”, adding: “A defibrillator is something that should be accessible to the public because people don’t just have heart attacks during opening hours.”
The Aston Defibrillator Fund is campaigning for more defibrillators to be made accessible to the public across the Farnham area and beyond, and has worked with the Forestry Commission since April to provide a PAD at the site.
The PAD itself will be the same defibrillator that has until now been locked in the visitor centre – but will be made readily available for the public to use in emergencies in the new heated cabinet.
Keith Harris, a trustee of the Aston Defibrillator Fund, thanked Jonathan McGloin of Forestry England for his support in installing the potentially life-saving device at Alice Holt.
But he added the Christian Eriksen incident underlines the “clear need” for more defibrillators at all sports clubs and facilities – and encouraged anyone considering installing a PAD to email the charity for advice at [email protected]
Keith continued: “It’s not guaranteed that a defibrillator will save somebody’s life – for some people I’m afraid it’s just their time. But it really can make a huge difference.”
If CPR is started and a defibrillator is used on someone within minutes of a person having a cardiac arrest, their chances of survival leap to as much as 60 per cent.
A spokesman for Forestry England said: “All of the team at Alice Holt Forest were deeply saddened by the recent death. Our thoughts and sympathies are very much with the family.
“We actively manage a wide range of risks across the public forest estate and in doing so undertake ongoing regular assessments to ensure we meet all safety standards and regulations.
“Our staff are trained first aiders and we have a range of specialist first-aid equipment on site. This includes a defibrillator located in our visitor centre.
“This particular incident took place after office hours and as such staff were not available to provide emergency assistance.
“As is the case with any serious incident, we have reviewed our safety procedures and risk assessments.
“As a result, we will be installing new equipment making it possible for a defibrillator to be accessed 24 hours a day if required.”