Out of Hospital Cardiac Arrest Management by First Responders: Retrospective Review of a Fire Fighter First Responder Program

Christian Winship, Malcolm Boyle, Brett Williams



Over 9,500 people die annually in Australia from sudden cardiac arrest, with strong evidence suggesting early high quality CPR and early counter shock being paramount for improving survival from cardiac arrest. It has also been shown that first responder programs have been able to reduce response times and increase survival rates for out-of-hospital cardiac arrest. The objective of this study was to examine data from the first seven years of an Australian out-of-hospital cardiac arrest first responder program where fire fighters provided basic life support.


This study was a retrospective cohort study of all cardiac arrests attended by the Metropolitan Fire and Emergency Services Board (MFESB) as part of the Emergency Medical Response program over a seven-year period in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.


The MFESB attended 4,450 cardiac arrests. The majority of patients presented in asystole 669 (63.7%) with just 243 (23.1%) presenting in a shockable rhythm. The majority of patients in cardiac arrest were males (64.2%) and the mean age of the patients was 67.5 years. The MFESB median response time during the study period was 5.7 minutes (IQR 2.25 minutes), range of 0.15 minutes to 31.7 minutes, which remained stable over the seven years. Patients spent a median time of 4.6 minutes (0.02 seconds to 36.5 minutes) in the care of fire fighters prior to the arrival of EMS. The rhythm on handover to paramedics was asystole in 787 (75.1%) cases with no shockable rhythms. One in three (31.3%) patients received bystander CPR, with a significant rise in the rate of bystander CPR occurring over the last two years.


This study demonstrated acceptable response times to cardiac arrests and a low bystander CPR rate prior to arrival of the MFESB. The incidence of a shockable rhythm on arrival of the MFESB was low with the main rhythm being asystole.  The main rhythm on handover to paramedics was asystole with non-shockable rhythms. Further research is required to determine the effect on patient outcomes.


First responder; fire fighter; heart arrest; cardiopulmonary resuscitation; prehospital

Full Text:



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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.33151/ajp.11.5.59


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