The terrifying few minutes between calling an ambulance and the paramedics arriving can seem like a lifetime in a real emergency.
And in some cases, those vital minutes could indeed be the difference between life and death.
That’s where the first responders come in.
Forth Valley First Responders are all volunteers but they are all trained in first aid – particularly in what to do in the event of cardiac arrest and breathing difficulties.
And every day members of the team are on stand-by to provide a response that is as quick as possible when an emergency call comes in.
In cases of cardiac arrest, the chances of survival reduce by roughly 10 per cent for every minute that CPR and defibrillation are delayed, so having someone there even just a few minutes earlier than the ambulance can make a huge difference.
But for members of the team, while they are happy to help in such dire straits – they also get huge satisfaction from just being there to offer reassurance.
They will be used to offer a quick attendance when the ambulance service is very busy and calls have to be prioritised.
Volunteer fundraiser Gary Drummond joined Forth Valley First Responders just over a year ago.
“As a first responder, you’re trying to calm patients down, you’re talking to the families –it’s real people skills you need.”
“I love it. I love dealing with people and being there to help when they really need it.
“It’s not always about doing CPR – you also have to collate information that you can pass on to the paramedics when they arrive, so that they can deal with the situation as quickly as possible.”
His colleague in the team, Kelly Irvine, agrees. She has been a first responder for the past two years.
She too has discovered that providing reassurance to someone in distress is hugely rewarding.
“Sometimes you get sent to an elderly person on their own – maybe they are having breathing difficulties – and it really helps them straight away just to have someone there to reassure them.
“We are in constant touch with the control centre, so if anything changes about a situation we can advise them straight away.
“Sometimes it even helps families just to know how close the ambulance is.”
Kelly became involved when she was looking at joining the ambulance service as a career.
“I thought it would be a fantastic way to get experience and test my ability to cope with extreme situations,” she said.
The experience has convinced her she’s on the right path and she is now more determined than ever to join the service in the future.
Gary’s full-time job is as a cooper with drinks giant Diageo and the company generously matches all the money he raises for charity.
That’s a real bonus, because while the volunteers are unpaid and the vehicles and fuel are provided by the Scottish Ambulance Service, fundraising is needed to provide essentials such as training equipment and uniforms.
The charity, Friends of Forth Valley First Responders, uses fundraising to help keep the service running smoothly.
In the past year, fundraisers have included an auction, bungee jump and climbing Ben Ledi.
The next big event they hope will is a sponsored walk along the West Highland Way – and they would welcome more volunteers to join them.
A group of them are planning to tackle the 96-mile was from April 23-27 with the money being split among four charities, including Forth Valley First Responders.
Those taking part will be walking approximately 20 miles per day and camping on four nights.
Arnold Clark, has given them a preferential rate on a crew carrier vehicle, which will carry the kit and cover first aid requirements.
“It would be great if other people would sign up to join us!” said Gary. “And if you can’t sign up to take part, please consider sponsoring us.”
The other charities that will benefit all have a personal connection with the volunteers: Give A Kidney; Ronald McDonald House; and Caring Homes will also benefit.
If you would like to join them on their walk, or give a donation to support their work, please email Gary at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the First Responders Facebook page.
To find out more about the group and its work visit http://www.fvcfr.org.uk/