Freethorpe life-savers blast Vodafone mast

LIFESAVING volunteers are being hampered in their job due to a faulty mobile phone mast.

Community First Responders in Freethorpe say lives are being potentially put at risk as they are unable to receive calls on their mobile phones, meaning vital minutes could be lost in which they could be responding to emergencies.

First Responders respond to medical emergencies that take longer for an East of England Ambulance (EEA) crew to reach, often in remote rural areas.

They receive calls from ambulance control in Hellesdon if someone in their village is in need, and rush to the scene.

But for the past month the mobile phones provided to them by the EEA have been all but useless as the Vodafone mobile phone mast on The Green - which is behind lock and key at the site of the former Aitchison Bros garage - has been down.

Co-ordinator of the Freethorpe community first response team Margaret Ditcham, 64, whose husband Roger, 65, is one of those trained to deal with emergencies in their area, said: “Someone is going to die because we cannot be reached easily by phone.

“We literally live 180 yards from the mast, in this day and age this should not be happening.

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“A month is too long, it should have been sorted.”

On Saturday, ambulance control could not reach Mr or Mrs Ditcham and so contacted a First Responder in Reedham, who phoned them on their house phone as he rushed to the emergency.

The emergency was only down the road from the Ditcham’s house in Chapelfield, but the Reedham responder arrived at the same time as Mr Ditcham, despite being three and a half miles further away.

Mr Ditcham, who is retired along with his wife, said he has missed two calls - that he knows of - and also once woke to find a call sent in the night had reached him in the morning, hours later.

Thankfully neither resulted in tragedy, but Mrs Ditcham believes it is a matter of time before the lack of signal results in a major problem.

“It was only two to three minutes delay before we got the call, but that can be vital, especially if someone is having a heart attack,” said Mrs Ditcham.

Mrs Ditcham claims that they and numerous others have complained to Vodafone about the problem, and have been told the company is aware of the problem and have engineers trying to fix it but not how, when or what the problem is.

Freethorpe and Wickhampton parish councillor Janet Church said: “I know this is a real problem for all sorts of people in Freethorpe but it is vitally important for our First Responders.”

A spokesman for Vodafone UK said: “The garage is currently closed and the power has been switched off so we are arranging for a generator to be brought on site.

“We hope this will be installed this week.

“We do apologise to customers locally but this problem was beyond our control.”