They are usually the first on the scene and can mean the difference between life and death.
Volunteer first responders are often the first trained medical personnel on the scene in any emergency.
They are part of the East of England Ambulance Service and, on Wednesday, the Fakenham Community First Responders was re-launched at the town’s community centre.
It was a demonstration evening for all comers in a drive to recruit new members to a vital service that covers all kinds of emergencies ranging from, for example, cardiac arrest and seizures to traffic accidents.
The stark reality of the need for more responders in the area was brought home by an ambulance service map showing all the responders across East Anglia.
Dots representing first responders were like a rash all over the map - except in the West Norfolk area which is shown as an empty space.
Christine Wheeler, who is one of a small trained group of first responders covering Fakenham and the surrounding area, said: “Once you see the look on a patient’s face it’s difficult not to want to do more.
“We are a 24-hour service and there is no limit to the numbers we need. We just ask 18 hours minimum a month. All ages are welcome.”
When there is an emergency the nearest first responder is notified by mobile phone.
They usually arrive before the ambulance and begin treatment. The prompt response enhances the patient’s chance of survival.
When the ambulance arrives they return to work having probably only been absent for a few minutes.
It has been shown that if someone’s heart has stopped or they have had a heart attack and a first responder can get to the patient within the first eight minutes their chances of survival increase considerably.
To be a first responder, volunteers need to be physically fit, have a full driving licence and use of a car, have a caring nature and agree to undertake training.
More information can be obtained by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by writing to Diss Ambulance Station, Green Road, Diss IP22 4ER.