20 March 2019

Community First Responders - What kit should I buy?

Community First Responders - What kit should I buy?

- A Paramedic article submission

*Please note this article is targeted towards CFRs that sometimes purchase equipment themselves as it is not provided by their trusts. CFRs should always follow guidelines set out by their trusts first and consult them before making a purchase.


Community First Responders play an ever critical role in responding to both urban and rural emergencies, to begin treatment ranging from life-saving interventions through to casualty comfort, as frontline NHS ambulance Services become busier each year. As volunteers, often responding solo to emergencies with the potential for the arrival of an Ambulance or healthcare professional being delayed due to the rural natures of some areas or high service demand, having the right equipment for accurate casualty assessment and treatment is key.

The first and by far the most important piece of equipment for Community Responders is their Defibrillator (AED). Defibrillators all vary between different manufacturers slightly but in principle, the operation of the units are the same, with two adhesive electrode pads being attached to the indicated position on to the chest of a casualty in cardiac arrest. The importance of Early Defibrillation in the event of Cardiac Arrest cannot be underestimated, as the delivery of the first shock within the first 3-5 minutes of cardiac arrest, if required, can increase chances of survival to as high as 50 – 70%.

I first learned the importance of providing early defibrillation to a casualty in cardiac arrest as I started my career with NHS Ambulance Services as a Community First Responder in my rural town, where access by ambulances is often challenging because of our rural geographical position. I achieved my first ROSC (Return of Spontaneous Circulation) to a cardiac arrest I responded to as a volunteer Community Responder where I was fortunately only a short two-minute drive away from the incident, following two shocks by my defibrillator, a pulse was generated and the patient, fortunately, made an impressive improvement in condition.

Cardiac Arrests are not the only incidents attended by Community Responders, who depend on their areas protocol attend a wide variety of incidents from breathing problems to road traffic collisions. The challenge needed to be overcome by many first response groups is the storage, stowage, and transportation of equipment as many responders use their own vehicle to attend incidents in and require a solution to store their equipment in one bag. This allows for responders to access their equipment quickly in an emergency and ensure that as a solo responder no equipment is left in their vehicle to return to at a later time.

My preferred bag as a Community Responder, when also considering the demands of challenging environments faced frequently and often limited budgets as charitable organisations, is the SP Parabag 2015 Backpack. This bag, structured in to colour coded and varied size integral removable pouches, is designed with solo responders in mind with immediate access and safe stowage of Oxygen and a Defibrillator within the front two pouches. The front badge pouch ensures that the correct qualification or role title can be displayed for when attending scenes with multiple resources. As is the same for many volunteer first responders, as skills are increased or as volunteers increase their skills to progress careers in paramedicine or the emergency sector, the Parabag range is interchangeable to allow for additional installable modules such as Cannulation and Drugs modules, without having to change the entire bag.

However, Community First Responders should always strive to ensure that they receive the best value for money in the equipment they choose, whilst it is critical that the quality of equipment is not compromised by selecting cheaper products that are likely to not withstand the daily uses seen by most responders for the expected life of the product. The classic example I find of this situation when working alongside many volunteer responders is with diagnostic equipment, which emergency responders rely upon to provide accurate diagnostic assessment and support any treatment that may be required by the first responder.

Stethoscopes, essential pieces of equipment for Community Responders to help undertake manual blood pressures or listen to chest sounds, are often an under-valued piece of kit for Community First Responders, where ambient noise often disrupts the accurate auscultation of sounds in cheaper models that also don’t tend to have the constructional integrity of those more advanced stethoscopes. However, stethoscopes can also be very expensive and perform functions not required or essential to responders, making stethoscopes such as the Littmann Classic III or the Littmann Lightweight II Stethoscope ideal choices for ‘one-off’ kit investments… as well as being handy Christmas presents! (Partners- take note..)

The work that volunteer Community First Responders carry out in our communities continues to be essential to providing immediate patient care to crucially unwell or injured patients, particularly where ambulance responses may be delayed due to some rural geographical locations. The passion, time and caring values displayed by Community First Responders and other volunteers within the Emergency Services continue to astound me and I thoroughly enjoy working alongside groups nationwide to provide the most appropriate and cost-effective equipment solutions, as a fellow community volunteer.

For more information or to discuss your requirements in more detail then please do not hesitate to contact us on or call 01952 288 999 (UK) 021 234 9999 (IE).


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