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Victorian towns welcome more than 150 heart starters

August 12, 2022 | in Community News

Twenty locations are now official Heart Safe Communities in Victoria, thanks to a program that has upskilled locals to save the life of someone having a cardiac arrest.

Ambulance Victoria (AV) Manager of Operational Improvement David Shearer said that over the last two years, the Heart Safe Community program in 17 towns across Victoria, has been vital in building community resilience and improving out-of-hospital cardiac arrest survival rates.

The program was launched in 2019 as a pilot program with three Victorian towns selected to take part before the program expanding state-wide. 

“The expansion of the Heart Safe Community program, a joint initiative between AV and the Heart Foundation, has built the confidence and skills in local communities so that they can step in and provide life-saving assistance if someone is in cardiac arrest.” David said.

“The program aims to raise community awareness of cardiac arrest, promote the role of Triple Zero (000) in a cardiac emergency, teach people cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) skills, how to use an automated external defibrillator (AED), identify and register existing defibrillators, install and register new defibrillators and promote and educate on the use of smart phone technologies, like GoodSAM (Smartphone Activated Medic) App.”

Cardiac arrest happens when a person’s heart suddenly stops beating and stops pumping blood effectively around the body; it can happen to anyone, anytime, anywhere.

“While bystanders alone will never replace an ambulance service, equipping people with skills to start the chain of survival; starting chest compressions or CPR and using an AED does save lives,” David said.

“Anyone can save a life in three simple steps.  Call, Push, Shock: Call Triple Zero (000), Push hard and fast on the middle of the chest, and Shock using an AED.”

An AED is used to deliver a shock to help restore normal heart rhythm following a cardiac arrest.

Thanks to the Heart Safe Community program’s 17 participating sites, over the last two years, more than 150 AEDs have been registered on the AV AED Register. Of these, 91 are accessible 24/7 by members of the public.

Registering a defibrillator with AV means that if someone suffers a cardiac arrest and a bystander calls Triple Zero (000), the call-taker can direct people to the nearest defibrillator.

“Anyone can use an AED, regardless of whether they have received training to do so,” David said.

“If someone is in cardiac arrest and an AED is available, simply open it and follow the verbal instructions. They are safe and easy to use and will not deliver a shock unless it is necessary.”

More than 5,000 members of the community; across the 17 HSC locations, attended one of 226 local community ‘Call Push Shock’ sessions where they were educated on CPR and how to use an AED by an AV paramedic.

Finally, David urges everyone to register with the GoodSAM app, which connects Victorians in cardiac arrest with responders and defibrillators in the critical minutes before paramedics arrive.

Responders only receive an alert if they are close to the person in cardiac arrest. They are given the address of the patient, along with the location of the closest defibrillator (if one is available), so that they can begin lifesaving care while an ambulance is on its way.

“Anyone can save a life by going to heartrestarter.com.au and signing up as a GoodSAM Responder today. You don’t have to have experience or a medical background, you just have to be willing and able to do hands-on CPR, be over 18 years of age and have access to a smartphone,” David said.

Did you know there are 20 Heart Safe Communities across Victoria?

Click or hover here to see where they are.
• Bellarine • Beechworth • Boort • Camperdown • Clunes • Donald • Euroa • Healesville • Inverloch • Mallacoota • Murrayville • Murtoa • Port Fairy • Queenscliff • Red Hill • Robinvale • Rosedale • Smythesdale • Tatura • Terang
Click to learn more about the Heart Safe Community initiative

In July 2022, 12 new communities joined the Heart Safe Community program: Bacchus Marsh, Kinglake, Coleraine, Lismore, Trentham, Hopetoun, Dunolly, Stanhope, Chiltern, Violet Town, Longwarry and Yallourn North.