Mission to save lives by saving heritage

Steying Area First Responders are bidding to turn unused  phone boxes into homes for defibrillators Christine Peters, team leader,  and Martin Leigh-Pollitt, chairman.
Steying Area First Responders are bidding to turn unused phone boxes into homes for defibrillators Christine Peters, team leader, and Martin Leigh-Pollitt, chairman.
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SUPERMAN often used the humble telephone box during life-saving missions.

But boxes in Steyning, Bramber and Upper Beeding also have the potential to avert catastrophe.

The Steyning Area First Responders (SAFeR) have bid to fit defibrillators into four phone boxes, as BT decides whether or not to decommission them.

SAfeR chairman, Martin Leigh-Pollitt, said: “BT are consulting on withdrawing the public phone boxes in the area, and we wrote to them to say if they are going to be closed, we were interested in installing public-access defibrillators.

“We want the phone boxes to continue to have a community use in Steyning, Bramber and Upper Beeding.”

If the idea is approved, the charity, which offers emergency first aid, would be looking for funding to kit out the kiosks. They estimate the cost would be around £1,500 per box, but say it would be money well spent.

“If someone is suddenly taken ill, this equipment could be used by anyone who had been in touch with the ambulance service,” Martin said. “We live in a rural area, if you had a heart attack the ambulance will take some time to get to you.

“To someone with a heart attack, every minute counts. The sooner you get someone on a machine, it can make a dramatic difference.”

Phone boxes were perfect, he added, as they were in busy areas.

The South East Coast Ambulance service was fully behind the idea, said Martin, but he added that any decision was far from being made.

He said: “At the present time, BT are consulting on this, because there may be other groups in the community who want to use them for a different purpose.

“In other areas, phone boxes have been used for art shows, or all sorts of things. People may want to keep them as phone boxes. There is still quite a way to go.”

He added: “This is a community issue, and the community needs to think about it, and about what would be most beneficial.”

Information on BT’s Adopt a Kiosk scheme, and how to launch an alternative bid, are available on its website, www.bt.com

A spokesman said: “For many towns and villages, the phone box is part of the community’s history and identity.

“People just don’t want to have an empty space where the phone box once stood.”