WARNING of the consequences of damaging defibrillators after a spate of vandalism at stations across Wales.
Defibrillators, which are used to give a high energy electric shock to the heart of someone who is in cardiac arrest, were recently installed at several stations by Transport for Wales.
Since their installation, seven incidents of defibrillators being damaged or stolen have been reported in the last nine months at locations including Pencoed, Ninian Park, Briton Ferry, Sarn, Llandeilio and Llandudno.
Officers are patrolling stations and cameras have been installed to capture incidents and pursue prosecution against any offenders. Defibrillators have also been locked in cabinets to prevent theft or damage.
According to British Heart Foundation Cymru, there are around 2,800 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests in Wales each year, but just 1 in 20 people survive.
Every minute without cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and defibrillation reduces the chance of survival by up to 10 per cent, but immediate CPR and defibrillation can more than double the chances of survival.
British Transport Police Inspector Richard Powell said: “Lives are being put at risk by people who steal and vandalise defibrillators.
“Offenders should think how they would feel if they themselves, or their relatives, were unable to be saved because of equipment being out of order due to vandalism or theft.
“If anyone witnesses anything suspicious on the railway, text us on 61016. In an emergency, always call 999.”
Karl Gilmore, Rail Infrastructure Director for Transport for Wales, said: “It is extremely disappointing that within weeks of the first phase of life-saving defibrillators being installed at TfW railway stations, a number have been vandalised and will now need to be repaired.
“The defibrillators are a vital tool for the whole community and this vandalism is putting people’s lives at risk.
“A cardiac arrest can happen to people of all ages and the use of a defibrillator can greatly increase someone’s chance of survival. It’s important the defibrillators are available in key locations, such as railway stations, and in good working order.
“We ask anyone who sees a defibrillator being damaged to call the British Transport Police immediately.”
Tomos Hughes, a Public Access Defibrillator Support Officer at the Welsh Ambulance Service, explained: “Once somebody suffers a cardiac arrest every minute counts. They need immediate CPR from those around them as well as a shock from a defibrillator.
“It’s so disappointing to hear about devices which have been stolen or damaged, which is basically putting lives at risk. If you’re that vandal, imagine if it were a member of your family in cardiac arrest who needed that defibrillator – how would you feel if it wasn’t available? Don’t be that person. We would urge anyone with information to contact police.”
Adam Fletcher, Head of BHF Cymru, added: “Every second counts when someone has a cardiac arrest, and, alongside CPR, prompt use of a defibrillator is critical in giving them the best chance of survival. To put it simply – access to a defibrillator could be the difference between life and death, and anyone who vandalises a defibrillator is putting lives at risk.”