The Cochrane EMS Crisis Citizens Action Group wants residents to know just how grave a situation we face with ambulance response times in the community.

They are also encouraging people to develop a "Plan B" in case an ambulance doesn't arrive promptly and is promoting the need for more publically available Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs).

The group has a booth at this weekend's Cochrane Chamber Trade Show, May 7-8, that will be located close to the large display of the Town of Cochrane.

Retired paramedic Gary McHugh, of the action group, says statistics will be provided to help people understand what's going on in real life. 

"Unless you call 911 yourself, you don't recognize there's a problem with the system in Alberta in general," explains McHugh.

"We're worried about Cochrane. Our main goal is to try and get that service back in Cochrane, and to make sure that when you call 911 that an ambulance is there within a reasonable period of time, which is not happening right now."

That reasonable period is 10 to 15 minutes and there have been some near tragedies resulting from delays. One of the most recent is a heart attack suffered by 75-year-old Andy Kirby at the Cochrane Golf Club. If not for the fast action by the Ninth Hole Guardian Angels and the use of an Automated External Defibrillator (AED) retrieved from the clubhouse, he could have died.

McHugh says they want to encourage those attending the trade show to be better prepared for a medical emergency, including knowing where to access an AED.

"We need to get more defibrillators spread around different areas of Cochrane," he says. "An ambulance could take 20, 30, 40 minutes, sometimes over an hour to respond, so if there's a defibrillator nearby that could make the difference between life and death."

"They're automatic, they do the job that's necessary, they tell you what to do, they can be used by anyone, and you don't have to have any training."

It's also important for the AEDs to be registered with Alberta Health Services. When registered, a 911 dispatcher will be able to inform the caller of their location.

McHugh says the group recognizes not all emergencies require the use of AEDs, and they're recommending people receive some first aid training.

"There are other things that happen, like bleeding, burns, and other situations that people should know how to deal with until the ambulance arrives."

They are seeking more residents to step forward to help spread the word and place pressure on public officials to properly address the ambulance issue.

That includes signing a petition launched by Ali Morrison calling for proper ambulatory service that supports the three-point plan of the local crisis group. It will be available at their trade show booth and can be signed online here.

"They have to know that we know that there's a problem. By having people sign the petition, we can put more pressure on the government to make those changes."

The Cochrane Chamber Trade Show is being held at the Spray Lake Sawmills Family Sports Centre. It opens at 10 a.m. on Saturday.