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Loweswater phone box given new life-saving future

Pictured at the handover of the new Phonebook defibrillator station are Rodger Hiley and Yvette Kahane of Lorton Vale First Responders, Martin Fagan of Community Heartbeat and BT Commercial Program Manager Mark Johnson.
Pictured at the handover of the new Phonebook defibrillator station are Rodger Hiley and Yvette Kahane of Lorton Vale First Responders, Martin Fagan of Community Heartbeat and BT Commercial Program Manager Mark Johnson.

[A] red phone box in a picturesque Cumbrian village is set to become a life-saver after marking a major milestone in BT’s Adopt a Kiosk programme.

The 3,000th box to be adopted in the UK – in Loweswater, Cumbria – has just been fitted with defibrillator equipment, which can help save the lives of heart attack victims.

The equipment has been paid for by BT and installed by the Community Heartbeat Trust, a charity that makes possible the provision of defibrillators for local communities.

Available to the public 24 hours a day, seven days a week, the defibrillator is secured in the phone box in a high visibility yellow, vandal-resistant, heated steel cabinet. It can be opened with a combination code available from the emergency services by calling 999.

As there is no mobile phone signal at the kiosk, BT has also sponsored a landline for emergency calls.

The defibrillator machine provides spoken step-by-step instructions, analysing the victim to determine if they are suffering from a cardiac arrest and delivering a powerful, but controlled electric shock to restore normal heartbeat if required.

The phone box was bought by Community Heartbeat Trust for £1 as part of BT’s Adopt a Kiosk scheme because it was no longer needed as a working payphone.

As well as being repainted to bring the vibrant red icon back to life, a local resident has designed and installed a new floor in the box.  Roger Hiley drew his inspiration from the surrounding landscape. “The mural stone draws on the green of the Lakeland fells, the creamy whites of the Swaledale ewes and the ruddled red of the classic Herdwicks at show time,” he said. “The floor design also ties in with the Red Cross emblem to link to the neutrality and service commitment of those who give their time and efforts in the cause of the common good,” explained Roger.

Lauren Watson, North West Ambulance’s Chain of Life co-ordinator for Cumbria, commented: “This is a wonderful location for a public access defibrillator. This defibrillator will be passed by lots of walkers everyday as well as serving the local village. A brilliant project and one the ambulance service is very happy to have supported.”

Martin Fagan, national secretary for the Community Heartbeat Trust charity, which undertook the project, said: “The use of redundant phone boxes is both a life saver for the community and these iconic structures.

“The renovation of the box, which includes a commissioned floor reflecting the character of the Lake District, the placement of a life-saving defibrillator and the installation uniquely of a 999 emergency telephone, reflects a super use of this installation and we are immensely grateful to BT for their very generous support for this.”

Up to 100,000 people a year in the UK suffer from an ‘out of hospital’ sudden cardiac arrest 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 machine 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 more than 50 per cent.

BT’s Adopt a Kiosk scheme has captured the imagination of people up and down the country since it was introduced in 2008. Apart from the defibrillator kiosks, boxes have been turned into art galleries, a pub, a colour therapy room, mini libraries, exhibitions and information centres. Even the villagers of Ambridge in BBC Radio 4’s long-running drama The Archers have adopted their kiosk.

Mark Johnson, programme manager at BT Payphones, said: “We couldn’t let this 3000th adoption pass without recognising such an achievement and it’s so gratifying to see this village phone box being given a new lease of life and being put to such good use once again.

“The most fantastic thing about the Adopt a Kiosk scheme has been how communities across the country have become involved. Red phone boxes have become a focal point for all sorts of activities of real value to the local community.

“Over the years, many people have said that their local phone box was a lifeline for them. Now that almost everyone has a phone at home or a mobile, that’s no longer true, but boxes fitted with defibrillator machines are a genuine asset to their community and could be real life savers in the future. I hope that many more communities choose to fit them.”

There are currently 600 phone boxes in Cumbria. Of these, 76 are red boxes of which 21 are listed buildings. There are 133 adopted boxes in Cumbria, 84 of which have been adopted so far by Community Heartbeat Trust and are scheduled to contain defibrillators.

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