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Wittersham community first responder John Rivers appeals for more volunteers

By Nick Lillitos

John Rivers is out to save people’s lives – but needs more volunteers to help him.

He has just become Wittersham’s community first responder and is looking for others to serve a wider rural area around Tenterden with a population of some 10,000 people.

Community first responders come under the South East Coast Ambulance Service (SECAmb), which trains and equips them.

They provide life-saving emergency treatment, especially in rural areas which are difficult for ambulances to reach.

Each minute someone is in cardiac arrest their chance of survival falls by up to 10% unless swift medical help is at hand.

Retired teacher Mr Rivers, 57, of Poplar Road, Wittersham, whose wife, Anita, 52, is head at Rolvenden Primary School, said: “Our area around here is extremely rural and response times in coming to the aid of people have not been good because of that.

“I’m looking to set up about 10 volunteers for Tenterden and the Isle of Oxney to also become community first responders.

Ready for action with life-saving skills and equipment is community first responder John Rivers, who is appealing for volunteers to join him.

Ready for action with life-saving skills and equipment is community first responder John Rivers, who is appealing for volunteers to join him.

“Previous first aid experience is not essential as full training is provided.

“Realistically, you need to be available evenings and weekends when the population is more likely to be at home, as that’s when things tend to happen. We also need help in other areas, like fundraising.”

Volunteers receive three intensive days of training followed by two written exams and a practical one. The work does not include traffic accidents or violent incidents, but mainly calls from the home, or people collapsing in the street.

It costs about £1,500 to fully equip a new responder and several hundred pounds a year to keep them on the road to meet fuel expenses. They use their own vehicles and are provided with a uniform.

People access the service by dialling 999 and asking for an ambulance.

Mr Rivers added: “I’ve always been involved in first aid, at school and at St John’s from the age of 22, and this time I wanted to put something back into the community now I’ve retired.”

For more details go to www.facebook.com/TenterdenCFR

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