Outrage following theft and damage of AED’s in Wicklow and Louth

There is widespread outrage following the thefts and damage of two AED defibrillators units in Counties Wicklow and Louth over the weekend.
One public access AED was stolen from its box at Centra in Rathnew, Co. Wicklow on Friday night while another one was stolen from outside a shop in Aston village, Co. Louth.

In a statement on their Facebook page, Community First Responders Wicklow Town said ‘this is a vital piece of emergency equipment that can save someone’s life. [It] was purchased in community spirit with the hope it could save someone in an emergency. It could be your mother, father, aunt, uncle, brother or sister that may need this one day.’

In a separate incident, the Order of Malta Ambulance Corps in Drogheda, Co. Louth reported that one of their Public Access AED units was stolen from its box outside a shop in Aston Village. On their Facebook page, they said ‘Woke up to the news that someone has robbed our Public Access AED last night. Disgraceful behavior by those involved.’

Drogheda Order of Malta launched an AED at Aston Village stores on 6th July. Pic via OMAC Drogheda Facebook

An AED unit costs €1,200.00 approximately. It takes a system to save a life and members of the community are part of that system, for it to work effectively and people who are trained in saving lives need the correct equipment to do so, but by removing these devices, it’s removing the chance of saving someone’s life.

There are three Community Engagement Officers with the National Ambulance Service who engage with new and existing CFR groups and provide information, training and guidance to these groups around the country.

Reacting this morning to the news of stolen and damaged AED’s, Ger O’ Dea, North Leinster area Community Engagement Officer with the National Ambulance Service told EmergencyTimes.ie “A vital part of equipment is the defibrillator which is the third link in the chain of survival and for every minute without a defibrillator, the victims chance of survival decreases by as much as 10 percent.”

NAS Community Engagement Officer Ger O’Dea, pictured at EMS Gathering in Cork. Photo: Declan Keogh / Emergency Times

Community First Responder groups are volunteers who train to save lives and raise funds for the equipment, which costs €1,200.00 approximately. Ger O’ Dea said “CFR groups work tirelessly and selflessly to raise funds for these machines and to have one stolen or vandalised is appalling and may be the difference between life or death in a cardiac situation.”

Wicklow Town CFR Team fundraising. Pic via Facebook

Several gardaí are also qualified as first responders and have dealt with many cardiac cases in the past few years. Roads Policing and CFR Garda Paul Baynham described the stealing of AED’s as ‘horrendous’ Speaking to Emergency Times Garda Baynham said ‘It is a horrendous thing, no more so than any of us when your scrolling through social media and you see the photograph going up of the smashed glass, its horrendous to see.”

Health Minister Simon Harris TD reacted to the incident in his own constituency in Wicklow. He said “This is awful news. These defibrillators save lives and our Community Responder Groups across the county are real local heroes who do so much to keep us all well. Please spread the word and see if anyone knows anything about the theft of this defibrillator and let’s try get it back.”

Community Engagement Officer Ger O’ Dea has appealed for anyone with information to contact their local gardaí and for members of the public to make regular checks on their local public access AED units. “I would appeal to anyone with any information on missing or damaged AED’s to contact your local Garda station. I would also ask members of the public to keep an eye on their local machines and go as far as to look into the cabinets to ensure that are there because with 70% of cardiac arrests occurring in the home, it could be you who needs it next.”

While it is clear these incidents are as a result of vandalism and theft, there have been occasions whereby an AED unit may have been removed from its box for the purpose intended and the person responsible may not have had a chance to return it before community groups or the public notice its missing. This has in the past caused other unnecessary hysteria and members of the public have taken to social media to vent their anger, innocently before checking out the situation.

Limerick Garda Paul Baynham Photo: Declan Keogh / Emergency Times

When asked about these circumstances, Garda Paul Baynham said ‘this can happen where a member of the public, with all good intent has had to remove an AED to help save a life and may not have either returned the AED to its storage box or informed the local CFR groups.’ He added “Any misuse of an AED or life saving equipment is simply not on, and there have been some occasions in the past where a member of the public might see it ‘missing’, and goes on social media to vent their anger before first clarifying the situation which can and has led to some hysteria within the public but one quick phone call to either of the local area Community Engagement Officers, the local CFR group or indeed the gardaí to see if it has in fact been used in an actual event can lessen that particular damage, because as you said, it has happened in the past, but those circumstances can never take away from the horrendous behavior of damaging or stealing an AED unit. It is there to save lives and should be respected and minded for the purpose intended.”

Anyone with information about the stolen or damaged AED units in Drogheda, Co. Louth are asked to contact Drogheda Garda Station 041-9874200 and anyone with information about the Wickow AED unit is asked to contact 087-9495912 or Wicklow garda station.

Emergency Times Comment: Irish Water Safety, along with the RNLI, Irish Coast Guard and Water Rescue groups regularly raise awareness and issue warnings about stolen lifebuoys and the consequences of them being stolen or damaged. The IWS slogan ‘A Stolen Lifebuoy, a Stolen Life’ is a strong campaign and perhaps the HSE, National Ambulance Service and CFR Ireland might consider a joint national campaign similar to that of the Irish Water Safety’s one for stolen lifebuoy’s to raise awareness of its importance and life-saving abilities.

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