Community first responders for out of hospital cardiac arrest

When a heart stops beating, first responders can revert the cardiac arrest. But how efficient are they? Can they help save the person before the ambulance arrives?  A new project by the Centre for Emergency Medical Science at University College Dublin seeks to find answers to these questions.

This project will be a systematic review of scientific literature on the topic.


We will follow a strict guide for doing systematic reviews by the Cochrane Collaboration. Cochrane reviews are used to inform decisions in health care. First, we will search for every published study about the topic. We will include only the best studies. Then, we will use their findings to calculate the impact of mobilizing community first responders.

“For the purpose of this study, Community first responders (CFRs) are defined as individuals who live or work within a community and are organized in a framework which offers OHCA care in that community, to support the standard ambulance service response.”

The ambulance service dispatch centre, or another service, activates CFRs in real time to attend OHCA in that community.

They can be anyone, including professionals like nurses, police, or fire fighters. But also lay people who volunteer for local community groups. Sometimes, fire fighters act as the designated first responders.

Cardiac arrest in the community

If we do nothing people who have a cardiac arrest die. Community members can save lives by being the first responders on the scene before the ambulance arrives. Especially in remote places without access to medical professionals. However, their training and activation take time and resources. We need to know whether it’s worth it.

Citation example: Barry T, Masterson S, Conroy N, Klimas J, Segurado R., Codd M, Bury G. (2017) Community first responders for out of hospital cardiac arrest [Protocol]. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, Issue 8.