October 18, 2017
Capitalise on community assets
A car crash that occurred earlier this year in Shetland may herald a turning point in how professionals and communities work together to achieve better outcomes. The badly injured driver needed the attention of both paramedics from the ambulance while getting to hospital and so a firefighter took it upon himself to drive the ambulance. In the old days, demarcation lines crossed in this way could lead to strike action. But the lessons from that incident have encouraged the Fire Service to consider how it could draw upon expertise within communities to improve their service.
Owners of speedboats and 4×4’s across rural Scotland are joining up with fire- fighters to make their equipment and specialist knowledge available under a radical new scheme to help save lives.
People living in rural areas with specialist skills, vehicles or equipment are being invited to sign up to the innovative partnership to form a national database to deal with emergencies.
The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) has created a Community Asset Register (Car) and means volunteers can now be quickly identified.
The register can be activated by fire control rooms during a serious emergency, such as widespread flooding, to enhance the service’s response.
It will also be available to local authorities and the other emergency services.
The fire service said a number of volunteers with access to private vehicles that can be used to cross water or negotiate rough terrain have already signed up.
It is now issuing a rallying call to others in remote areas who have specialist skills or own an all-terrain vehicle to join the scheme and help protect their communities.
People with buildings that can offer a temporary base to emergency workers or warmth and shelter to people displaced from their homes are also being welcomed.
Bruce Farquharson, the area manager leading the project, said: “The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service exists to save lives and will always respond to every emergency with the right resources, in the right place – at the right time. But we always look for new and innovative, dynamic but nonetheless appropriate partnerships wherever possible to ensure the safety of our communities.
“The Community Asset Register is yet another example of this spirit, calling upon those with specialist skills, vehicles and equipment to work alongside ourselves to keep people safe – because sometimes minutes can be not only precious but vital.
“The ideal person is someone who is experienced and knowledgeable in their field and handling their equipment. We are talking about, for example, white water rafters, mountaineers and 4×4 enthusiasts, but there are other possibilities.
“These are everyday volunteers with a very keen community spirit – people who might also have access to useable buildings which can cater for large numbers of emergency personnel or displaced people in need of temporary warmth and shelter.
“We encourage anyone with these qualities who wish to give something back to their community to come forwards.”
Potential applicants will go through a “rigorous” registration process before being added to the live register and will have their equipment checked for safety.
The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service is the largest within the UK and covers some of the UK’s most rural areas, such as the Highlands and Islands, Argyle and Bute and Dumfries and Galloway.
It is the latest scheme to help the emergency services deal with incidents in remote and inaccessible parts of the country.
Last week, firefighters reversed their ban on firefighters driving ambulances after the intervention of the head of NHS Scotland.
The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) said it would act “as quickly as possible” to train staff to help out in rural areas.
It follows a firefighter driving a road crash victim to hospital in Shetland so two paramedics could continue treating him.
After the Shetland incident in August, victim John Gold, 50, who suffered multiple injuries including a collapsed lung, said the firefighter had saved his life, and outlawing the practice was “nonsense”.
Firefighters have also been deployed to resuscitate heart attack patients across rural Scotland in a move that has provided a major boost to survival rates.
Fire crews often arrive in advance of paramedics because there are more fire units than ambulances in remote areas. Specially trained firefighters administer CPR or use a defibrillator.
The average response time in the trial was six to eight minutes, giving the patient precious time until the ambulances crew arrived with their more sophisticated resources such as oxygen and incubation skills. The fire crews, with at least four members, often also help take turns with ambulances paramedics in delivering the physically demanding CPR.