Study objective: We aimed to reduce response times and time to defibrillation for out-of-hospital cardiac arrest patients through fire first-responders equipped with automatic external defibrillators (AEDs). The fire first-responders were added as an extra tier to the existing two-tired ambulance response.
Methods: This prospective controlled trial set in Melbourne, Australia, consisted of a control area (277 km2, population density 2343/km2-ambulance only dispatch) and a pilot area (171 km2, population density 2290/km2-ambulance and fire first-responder dispatch). The main outcome measures were time to emergency medical service (EMS) arrival at scene for all cardiac arrest patients and time to defibrillation for cardiac arrest patients presenting in ventricular fibrillation (VF). The study participants were patients who suffered a cardiac arrest of presumed cardiac aetiology for which a priority 0 emergency response was activated. A total of 268 patients were located in the control area and 161 in the pilot (intervention) area.
Results: The mean response time to arrival at scene was reduced by 1.60 (95% CI 1.21, 1.99) min, P < 0.001. A large reduction in prolonged responses (> or = 10 min) to cardiac arrests was also observed in the pilot area (2%) compared with the control area (18%), chi = 23.19, P < 0.001. Mean time to defibrillation was reduced by 1.43 (95% CI 0.11, 2.98) min, P = 0.068.
Conclusion: The results from this study suggest that fire officers can be successfully trained in the use of AEDs and can integrate well into a medical response role. The combined response of ambulance and fire personnel significantly reduced the response interval and reduced time to defibrillation. This suggests that in appropriate situations other agencies could be considered for involvement in co-ordinated first-responder programs.