Crossgar phone box is first in Northern Ireland to be transformed into potential life saver.

March 14th 2013

A BT phone kiosk in Crossgar, County Down has become the first in Northern Ireland to be transformed into a potential life saver - thanks to an initiative by BT, the British Red Cross, Down District Council and the local community.

BT is installing an Automated External Defibrillator (AED), which can diagnose and treat life threatening cardiac arrhythmias which lead to cardiac arrest, in one of the BT phone boxes situated at the junction of Station Road and Downpatrick Street Crossgar.  It is the first BT Payphone in Northern Ireland to be fitted with the lifesaving equipment.

Available to the public 24 hours a day, seven days a week, the defibrillator is housed in the kiosk in a high-visibility, green, vandal-resistant, heated cabinet. It can be opened under instruction from the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service by calling 999.

The original idea of using a BT phone box to house a defibrillator came from a collaboration between the Queen’s University Medical Faculty, Dr. Nigel Hart from the local Crossgar GP surgery and the British Red Cross.

Two medical students from Queen’s also conducted a community research project to establish local appetite for the project. The local community raised £4,000 to fund it and around 100 local residents and business people took part in community first aid courses organised by the Red Cross.

The kiosk was originally bought by Down District Council for £1 as part of BT’s Adopt a Kiosk scheme as it was no longer needed as a working payphone in the area.

Dr Nigel Hart said: “Apart from benefiting our own local community we have a lot of visitors to the village.  A defibrillator in the centre of the town will be a real asset and could help save lives in the future.”

Paula Powell, Community Based First Aid Manager for the Red Cross, said:

We would encourage other towns and villages in Northern Ireland to think about their own resilience. They may already have defibrillators in the community, but do enough people know how to access and use them? This is an innovative way to enable 24/7 access to an AED and most importantly of all, to have the local community fully involved and first aid trained.”

Down District Council Chairperson, Cllr Mickey Coogan said:

Down District Council is delighted to support BT’s Adopt a Kiosk scheme.  I would like to extend my sincerest gratitude to BT and everyone else whose work has resulted in this fantastic new use for the former phone box. I am very pleased that Crossgar’s kiosk is the first in the region to be adopted and I know the residents are most appreciative.

Up to 200,000 people a year in the UK suffer from a sudden heart attack, making it one of the UK’s largest killers. The faster a victim gets medical help, the better the chances of survival. The availability of a defibrillator greatly increases the chances of surviving an attack. With CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) alone, the survival rate is around five per cent, but defibrillation and CPR increases the chance to up to 50 per cent.

BT’s Adopt a Kiosk scheme has captured the imagination of many people since it was introduced in 2008. Apart from the defibrillator kiosks, boxes in GB have been turned into art galleries, public libraries, exhibitions and information centres, and even the villagers of Ambridge in BBC Radio 4’s long-running drama, The Archers, have adopted their kiosk. 

Conal Duffy, BT’s Consumer director in Northern Ireland, said:

The most fantastic thing about setting up the Adopt a Kiosk scheme in Northern Ireland is how easy it is for communities to get involved and it’s gratifying to see rarely used boxes given a new lease of life. Over the years, many people have said that their local phone box was a lifeline. Now that most people have access to a phone at home or a mobile that’s no longer true, but a kiosk fitted with defibrillator is a genuine asset to a community and could be real life savers in the future.”