Fire fighters save more lives in medical emergencies than fires
Fire fighters in Devon and Somerset now save more lives in medical emergencies than by rescuing people from fires, new figures have revealed.
The fire and rescue service has 20 co-responding fire stations in hard-to-reach areas from which fire appliances and ambulances are deployed to reports of serious health issues.
The statistics have tipped away from fighting fires for the first time, a new report into recent cost-cutting work has found.
A spokesman said: “In remote areas there is an agreement with the ambulance service that whoever gets there first start work on the patient.”
The trend was identified in a review into the pioneering work done since a cut in Government grants forced a re-think of the service.
Former Chief Fire and Rescue Adviser Sir Ken Knight visited service headquarters near Exeter on Monday to discuss progress on recommendations in his 2013 report, Facing the Future.
In his Government-commissioned review, Sir Ken published his conclusions as to how English fire and rescue services could become more cost-effective and efficient in the future.
The report found that while incidents had reduced by 40% in the last decade, the fire and rescue service could achieve greater cost savings by using different staffing models and by working more closely with neighbouring authorities and other emergency services.
Sir Ken visited Devon and Somerset and the merger of the two fire and rescue services was noted as an example for others to follow in the report, having saved £4.2 million between 2007 and 2012, as was the innovative work on wider community safety initiatives.
Sir Ken, who served in the former Devon Fire & Rescue Service, said: “I was delighted to return three years after my review to see at first-hand the tremendous range of work that the fire and rescue service is undertaking.
“It is notable that firefighters in Devon and Somerset now save more lives from attending emergency health care support than from the traditional firefighting role. It is a credit to both and fire and rescue authority and firefighters who are serving the community in this way.”
Chief Fire Officer Lee Howell said: “We invited Sir Ken back to Devon and Somerset to highlight the significant progress we have made locally since his national report was issued in 2013.
“This is part of our strategy to bring in an external perspective on our performance to reassure the public that the fire and rescue service in Devon and Somerset continues to improve year on year.”
Cllr Mark Healey, chairman of the Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Authority, said: “We are very proud of our achievements and we are working on some innovative projects which will enable us to further maintain and improve public safety as well as becoming even more efficient and effective.”
Among the pioneering schemes discussed was the use of specially-trained PCSOs responding to incidents as on-call firefighters in remote locations where fire stations have lower availability.
Community safety officers have been working with the health sector to reach the most at risk of fire and voluntary groups to develop community resilience to flooding and severe weather incidents.
The Service has also trialled the use of different emergency response vehicles such as Light Rescue Pumps and is currently piloting Rapid Intervention Vehicles and associated new technology.