Preston's life-saving voluntary Community First Responders: Always there when you need them most

In the last 12 months, 1,035 North West Community First Responders logged 9,685 hours of voluntary work, helping keep people safe and reassured in their most pressing time of need before ambulances can get to them. Theirs is a vital role but, despite this, few people know about them.
Community First RespondersCommunity First Responders
Community First Responders

Community First Responders (CFRs) are trained volunteers who support the North West Ambulance Service (NWAS) in the Preston area at life-and-death emergencies such as cardiac arrest, allergic reactions, breathing problems, strokes, and seizures. They’re real-life guardian angels.

"Being a CFR was something I'd wanted to do because it’s a great way to help people out in the community," says Lisa Allen, 50. "We're there in times when people really need help - a lot of it is just being there with people. Being there to keep them calm is massive.

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"It's good to give back in such a worthwhile way," adds Lisa, who became a CFR last March. "It's very rewarding; I love talking to people and you end up having some interesting conversations. And people are always relieved to see you, which is nice. It's the sort of thing which you'd want yourself if you were in that situation."

Community First Responders Andy Dow and Lisa AllenCommunity First Responders Andy Dow and Lisa Allen
Community First Responders Andy Dow and Lisa Allen

Ken Shaxon has been a CFR for four years. "I became a CFR because I wanted to help out," says Ken, 49. "It’s tremendously rewarding; it’s an eye-opener but giving back to the community is great.

"The public are so pleased to see you but they don't know about CFRs in general, so we want to raise awareness," adds Ken. "So we want to show Preston that they've got us first responders."

Often first on the scene prior to the arrival of ambulances, CFRs are nevertheless entirely reliant on donations and volunteered throughout the pandemic, going out to incidents and packing PPE for paramedics. Wherever they go, they tend to inspire.

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"My son had a tumour when he was 17, so we had ambulances and first responders out at the house, which made me want to help out locally, too," says Sarah Newsham. "Being there for people and offering them reassurance is so rewarding: letting them know they're not alone.

Community First Responders Richie Mitchell and Ken Shaxon with stand-in patient Matthew SempleCommunity First Responders Richie Mitchell and Ken Shaxon with stand-in patient Matthew Semple
Community First Responders Richie Mitchell and Ken Shaxon with stand-in patient Matthew Semple

"During Covid, it's been about doing anything we could to help paramedics," adds Sarah, 44, who works for NWAS and who's been a CFR for two years. "Not many people know about us, so we want to get word out about what we do locally."

Explaining that CFRs were originally stood down for their own safety at the start of the pandemic, Ken continues: "When we could get back to it, we were all raring to go. It renewed my sense of determination and, while being away meant that you got out of the habit of some things, being back out there jogs your memory back into it."

Lisa, originally from Blackpool, concurs. "While we've had to take extra precautions, we've still had a job to do," she says. "It's made things more difficult for us, but we've just had to get on with it and do the best job we can. We were determined because the help we can offer is so important for people and that's why the CFR role is challenging but brilliant."

Preston Community Responders are always open to sponsorship or donations. For more information, email [email protected]

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