LCQ6: Automated external defibrillators

     Following is a question by Dr the Hon David Lam and a reply by the Acting Secretary for Security, Mr Michael Cheuk, in the Legislative Council today (March 15):
     There are views pointing out that an automated external defibrillator (AED) must be used as quickly as possible when cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is administered and therefore, whether an AED can be readily located and used is crucial to the effectiveness of CPR. The Hong Kong Fire Services Department (FSD) launched the "AED Anywhere for Anyone" Programme (the Programme) in June 2021 with the aim of popularising the installation and use of AEDs in the community. However, it is learnt that even though the Programme has been implemented for more than one and a half year, a large number of government venues (e.g. post offices, estate offices under the Hong Kong Housing Authority, community halls, community centres and schools) have not yet been installed with AEDs. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) of the respective numbers of additional AEDs which have been installed across the territory and in various districts since the launch of the Programme, and whether members of the public can locate all AEDs which are available for public use through the FSD's online information platform "Centralised AED Registry for Emergency";
(2) whether it will set an indicator for the installation of AEDs at reasonable intervals in public places; and
(3) whether it has plans to continuously educate members of the public about using AEDs (e.g. broadcasting announcements in the public interest), and review in a timely manner the implementation progress and effectiveness of such plans; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?
     To enhance the community's awareness, capabilities and supporting measures of emergency preparedness, the Fire Services Department (FSD) has been making vigorous efforts to formulate and implement strategies on community emergency preparedness, and organise educational and promotional activities in the community.
     Administration of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) in conjunction with the use of an automated external defibrillator (AED) is the most effective way to rescue a cardiac arrest patient. AEDs are easy and simple to use. They are equipped with a built-in computer to analyse patients' condition. By following the instructions of an AED, anyone can help restore a patient's heartbeat to normal. In recent years, there is an internationally adopted view that even a layperson with no relevant training is able to rescue cardiac arrest patients using AED. The FSD has been actively exploring ways to improve accessibility of AEDs for public use in a bid to enhance the efficiency of life-saving treatment. Therefore, the department launched the "AED Anywhere for Anyone" (AAA) Programme in June 2021, which aims to increase the number of AEDs across the territory that can be readily accessed by the public, and to enhance people's awareness and capabilities in using an AED in case of emergency, so that they will be able to administer defibrillation to cardiac arrest patients. Information about AEDs under the programme, including the locations, is available at the FSD's online information platform "Centralised AED Registry for Emergency" (CARE) to facilitate public access.
     The FSD has in parallel implemented community education programmes on CPR and AED with a view to enhancing the people's understanding of the whole rescue process and boosting their confidence and efficiency in handling emergency situations when necessary. The FSD has also put emphasis on the promotion of the concept "Anyone can use an AED", encouraging the public to make the best use of the time before the arrival of ambulance crew to perform first aid on the patient by following the "post-dispatch advice" instantly and concurrently provided by personnel of the Fire Services Communications Centre and by making use of the nearby AEDs.
     By implementing the above measures, the FSD aims to create a social atmosphere that will foster the culture of "self help and help others" in the wider community, and at the same time promote the installation of AEDs by various organisations, making the device readily accessible anywhere by anyone.
     My reply to the question raised by the Member is as follows:
(1) Since the launch of the AAA Programme, there are over 160 participating public and private organisations. As at March 2023, the CARE platform has incorporated the details of over 1 700 AEDs spreading among 18 districts, with over 400 on Hong Kong Island, 490 in Kowloon and nearly 820 in the New Territories and Outlying Islands.
     The FSD has taken the lead by installing AEDs outside over 100 fire stations and ambulance depots across the territory when launching the above programme. The department has also put up an AED sign on over 600 FSD vehicles equipped with an AED.
     AEDs are now available at a number of places across the territory, including government buildings and offices, medical institutions, theme parks, schools, large shopping malls, private housing estates, commercial buildings, nursing homes. The FSD has all along encouraged and helped relevant organisations to install AEDs and make them available to the public for use in case of emergency.
     Apart from the above-mentioned 1 700 AEDs, we know that there are AEDs installed by other organisations in the community. On top of stepping up the promotion of installing AEDs in government departments, the FSD is actively encouraging these organisations to provide information about their AEDs on the CARE platform. The department will also continue to identify other associated supporting measures or options for co-operation where feasible.
     When the number of participating organisations have grown, and the public's awareness, expectation and capabilities in respect of the availability and use of AEDs in the community have gradually increased, it will promote the social atmosphere prompting more organisations to participate in the programme.
(2) At present, there is yet to be a uniformed international standard on the interval or density of AED coverage in public places. However, there is a general recommendation from various organisations that there should be an AED available within a three-to-five minute round-trip walking distance from where the patient receives defibrillation. The FSD also recommends to participating organisations that as a target, an AED should be installed at a location which can enable access within the shortest time.
(3) The FSD has been making vigorous efforts to plan and carry out educational and promotional activities related to community emergency preparedness; and promoting the "three basic skills of emergency preparedness", which are namely "Extinguish and Prevent Fire, Self-help and Help others, and Escape and Evacuate". The use of AED and CPR are taught as one of those skills of "Self-help and Help Others". Educational and publicity work have been carried out through television and radio as well as distribution of promotional leaflets. Apart from this, the FSD has organised a series of courses and lectures in school campus and the community. To enhance community emergency preparedness, the FSD has also made vigorous efforts to reach out to different age and community groups through social media, online platforms, public engagement activities, with a view to disseminating messages of emergency preparedness to everyone in the community.
     The FSD has been conducting timely review on the progress and effectiveness of educational and publicity efforts using statistics from the various media platforms as well as data collected through questionnaires. Up to this date, the relevant educational and promotional activities have reached over a million people. The FSD will seek to extend the coverage, penetration and continuity of publicity and educational efforts by reference to the review findings.
     As the next step, the FSD will focus on promoting the simplicity in the use of AEDs. The aim is to convey to the public the message that even a layperson with no AED training is able to help save the life of a cardiac arrest patient using an AED as long as he/she dares to do so.
     Looking forward, the FSD will keep up its efforts in broadening AED coverage and strengthening the public's awareness and capabilities of emergency preparedness by a multi-pronged approach to better prepare people for dangerous or emergency situations, hence providing better protection to the people of Hong Kong.
     Thank you, President.

Ends/Wednesday, March 15, 2023
Issued at HKT 16:00