Athea Community First Responders with Rodge Byrne (Training Advisor)
and Dr. Kieran Murphy(

10 Years of Athea Community First Responders

By Rodge Byrne

It all started in 2007, when Dr Kieran Murphy, Athea Community GP, and I met up at the annual conference, known as  Kieran and I spent some time discussing how a Community First Responder (CFR) system would work in and around the parish of Athea.  and attended a meeting in HSE South Ambulance services in Cork to get the process started.

How it developed 

I was then a member of staff in the Cardio-Pulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) training team at Kerry General Hospital. I arranged for a CPR training colleague to kick us off, with the Irish Heart Foundation (IHF), Heart Saver CPR AED programme, in Con Colbert Hall in April 2008.

We cast our net across the community to see who would like to get involved in such an important service and excitingly, there was no shortage of interest. People came forward from the Fishing Club, Gun Club, Credit Union, GAA, Motorcycle Road Races Association, along with local pub staff, nurses, Irish Red Cross personnel and farmers – it was a mix of everyone from the community. In a village where the nearest ambulance is sometimes more than 30-45 minutes away, it was (is) about taking care of our own.

Raising money locally from donations and Church gate collections for training, equipment and resupply, the Athea Community First Responders (CFRs) was launched. Personnel across 2008-2010 had nationally recognised IHF training. We arranged to be contacted by the ambulance personnel if they were coming to our “patch” and hence a CFR would be first on scene, knowing what actions were most appropriate and equipment needed.

By 2010 we had developed key personnel to become instructors, just as the emergence of the Pre-Hospital Emergency Care Council (Phecc) for Ireland became active. This organisation is the sole “Legal authority”, for all Pre-Hospital Care practitioners-providers and sets out 6 National Standards of competency. All of Athea CFRs progressed through such training, to increase their capability of dealing with a wider set of emergency care needs. With this new “Cardiac First Responder” qualification (CFR) personnel had expanded their competence and confidence.

Additionally, Athea CFRs had a joint endeavour with Kerry Civil Defence EMS team to train a number of personnel to qualify as Occupational First Aid (OFA) now known as First Aid Responder (FAR). In concert with this training Dr Murphy has provided a range of enhanced training sessions across the years on key topics and practices.

Why they become CFRs

My observation of CFRs, is that they, are motivated people willing to provide a “skilled helper” to others living in a community “where everybody knows everybody” and makes it a more personal service. Consequently, a family do not need to experience “helplessness” at this important time.

The importance of swift and speedy action in emergency care is critically important to ensure the best outcomes for residents, and thereby the parish is split into zones, with a number of responders in each zone.

What the CFR service provides

CFRs provide an on-call service to within the community for emergency care needs from 6pm to 8am Monday to Friday and from 6pm Friday to 8am Monday, 365 days a year (Yep 2017 a call on Christmas day too @14.22). The CFR phone holder acts as coordinator when they receive a call, they forward details to all CFRs of the nature and location of an incident.

Subsequently a group of responders will go to the scene to assess and carryout appropriate actions. Members of the team will have picked up the defibrillator and oxygen-breathing equipment from its position in the Defibrillator phone box outside Griffin’s Butchers in Main Street, Athea.

On that note Athea Tidy-towns vision for the “Telefon” box was an inspired choice to locate the defibrillator essentials from 2018 onwards and reaffirms our great working partnerships. Additionally 2018 saw the arrival of a second defibrillator awarded to us. We are surrounded by them / Athea GAA + Vales Football Club / and as of Jan 2019 Con Colbert hall (inside).      

During 2008-2010 there were seven call-outs and several of those were heart attack-type events. In one instance, an individual received a stent in less than three hours. So these are critical responses and show the significance of incidents CFRs attend.

In 2012 on the last occasion of Road Races, and 6 minutes before the “official road closure order” came into force, CFRs had to travel up the circuit from the bridge to Knockfinisk to a person requiring assistance.  In the same year Athea CFRs featured in the Irish Times: If you have access to on-line then search this statement, “Could this be the safest village in Ireland” it will take you to that article, along with a feature on TG4.

In 2014 a very demanding call involving multiple agencies that included CFRs first, followed by Shannon Doc presence, and Ambulance along with Gardaí to prepare for landing of the Irish Army Air corps, Rescue 112, air-medical evacuation helicopter.

In 2016 the whole CFR team underwent mandatory re-certification training that takes place every two years. Additionally we were approached by the NAS – Community Engagement

Officer for Limerick, requesting us to be re-registered as NAS 112-999 CFRs. Across the next 12 months we passed through the appropriate steps and hurdles e.g. evidence of training records = Phecc registrations / car insurance data / uniform requirements / equipment lists, and were incorporated into the 999 dispatch system.

Across the same period 2016-2017 the Athea CFR committee agreed that we should become a registered charity. Under the stewardship of Mary Sheahan Athea CFR Secretary it became a reality in early 2018. As you may know its takes a lot of background work to get registered and sets us apart from other groups that do not have such scrutiny applied to “what we do and how we keep our books”.

Athea CFR team members are trained to the CFR Level 1 for First Responders, some members with OFA – FAR, along with other professional registered practitioners and instructors. Every two years CFR teams are required to undergo recertification training in addition to their attendance in the 1 hour training- testing session carried out every 90 days.

Looking ahead  

Across the years the demand for NAS – CFR services has been continuously expanding with regular monitoring to ensure that the Irish system meets International protocols. To that end since 2012 the expectation is that, following receipt of a 112–999 call to NAS, CFRs are required to be at the “scene” within 7 Minutes 59 seconds. I am pleased to advise that Athea has consistently met that target. All responses we’ve had in the village and across the Parish in the 10 years of existence have been between three and five minutes. You’re in good hands!

As 2018 draws to an end and 2019 kicks off, I want to update “our community” on where we are and where we are going. Earlier this year we were re-registered and went live with NAS 112-999 service. Since that time we are providing CFR services to a wider area, therefore increasing the frequency of calls.

If you are concerned about a person in your home showing signs of any of the following:

Heart attack signs – Chest pain and short of breath

Stroke signs – Face weakness – Arm weakness or Slurred Speech

Choking – where the person cannot cough or make a sound – cannot breath 

Unconscious or Unresponsive – doesn’t wake or move on their own or when you touch them

Cardiac arrest – Heart stopped – poor colour or changing colour not breathing 

Call 112 or 999 and a group of Athea Community Responders will be dispatched to your Eircode – Home address, with all the necessary equipment prior to an Ambulance arriving.

For all other calls Dr Murphy’s surgery or Shannon Doc or 112-999 Dispatcher will advise

Lastly, I would like to invite any member of the community who might like to be involved in the First Responder organisation to get in touch CFR phone 087 2737077 or Rodge 086 3103233. Full, free training is given – equipment, uniform and identity documents issued / following Garda checking protocols and insurance indemnity. Rodge Byrne, Training advisor Athea CFRs

Useful websites to visit for more information for all matters regarding national F.A.S.T Campaign for the national standards for Emergency Care Practitioners levels 1-6

Athea Community Games

Athea Community Games will have their Annual church gate collection next weekend February 16th and 17th. All support greatly appreciated.

Athea Drama Group

We are half way through our run of ‘The Lonesome West’, with just three nights remaining, Thursday Feb 14th, Saturday Feb 16th & Sunday February 17th at Con Colbert Memorial Hall, Athea at 8pm. From the outset, we knew this was going to be a difficult play to stage due to the subject matter, but we are completely humbled by the response from our audiences to date, with a standing ovation each night. The play is not easy viewing at times and our cast are so convincing in their roles, it was no surprise to see the audience becoming visibly upset during the shows. Not to be missed.

Please book your seat by texting 0872743189

Be Alert

Following on from last week’s alert there were more reports of suspicious activity in the parish. We urge everyone to be vigilant and report anything suspicious to the Gardaí.

On the 4th Jan there was a Garda alert text sent out about a theft from a car at Holy Cross.   Then on the 29th Jan, the day we referred to the woman coming across the car, there was another Garda alert text about a burglary in Upper Dirreen.  Advice in Text to ring the Gardaí at 069 20650 if one noticed anything unusual.