Public can borrow defibrillator in new Guelph, Ont. loaner program

Guelph-Wellington Paramedic Services have launched a new program where residents can borrow a defibrillator if they're hosting an event, such as a family reunion, wedding, concert or festival.

Weddings, festivals and family reunions can borrow a short-term automated defibrillator

Guelph-Wellington Paramedic Services have two automated external defibrillators, like this one, to lend to residents hosting events like family reunions, golf tournaments or festivals. (CBC)

In what's believed to be the first program of its kind in Canada, people planning big events like weddings, festivals, fun runs or concerts will now be able to borrow a defibrillator at no cost through a new program from the Guelph-Wellington Paramedic Service.

"We believe that providing [automated external defibrillators] at community events – where there is no easy or timely access to a defibrillator – can save lives," paramedic services chief Stephen Dewar said in a release ahead of the program launch Friday at Guelph, Ont. city hall.

There are two AEDs available to be loaned out – one was purchased by the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario with funds raised by Guelph-Wellington paramedics through the Ride for Heart. The second was donated by BERRN Consulting Ltd./AED4Life.

Starting Friday, members of the public can borrow an automated external defibrillator (AED) for free for short-term events. Residents fill out a form online or can call 519-822-1260 ext. 2880 to request an AED.

'As common as fire extinguishers'

Sandra Page, the Heart and Stroke Foundation's manager of resuscitation in Ontario, said she was unaware of other similar programs.

The foundation has placed more than 15,000 AEDs across Canada since 2010. Last year, 515,000 Canadians were trained in CPR by the Heart and Stroke Foundation.

"We would like to see [these devices] as common as fire extinguishers one day, and we're getting there. But we're not there yet," Page said. "They save lives."

Copycats wanted

"I don't know why anybody hasn't started it," Dewar told CBC News. "Everybody that we've talked to has said, 'Wow, what a great idea.'"

In fact, at the launch event Friday morning, someone asked if they could use an AED for a church event.

"So we've already lent the first one out," he said.

In the past, paramedics have tried to place AEDs in buildings to increase access to the devices. They have also had private businesses register AEDs with the paramedics and they've mapped those throughout the city so if someone calls, and there's an AED nearby, paramedics can point them to the device until help can arrive.

But Dewar said his team thought offering the AEDs on loan could be another way people could access AEDs in areas that might not usually have them close at hand.

"While people have this public access defibrillator program, we just took that extra step to make this loaner program and I certainly hope that other services will pick up on the idea. I'd like to see this go province wide," he said. "The whole point is to save lives, and it only takes one life to make this well worth the effort."