A Fire Service Co-responder scheme has been operating in partnership with South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust since 1997 within Devon and Somerset. The scheme operates from 20 fire stations, located in the Service’s more rural communities.
Our involvement, along with a number of other agencies and individuals, provides critical support to the arrangements of the trust. The Service assists in saving more lives through our contribution through co-responder calls than in fire emergencies.
The Service’s involvement with the scheme is in keeping with our traditional role of supporting and protecting local communities. Therefore our involvement is a joint one with a common objective to reduce death or injury.
The scheme is designed to provide a quick medical response, and our personnel mobilise alongside our Ambulance Service partners at all times. These firefighters then provide initial medical treatment and care to patients, whilst waiting the arrival of the ambulance from our partner agency.
Fire service personnel involved have received further training from the ambulance service, in addition to the high level training already provided by our fire service. The training and skills acquired enable the co-responders to attend a variety of life threatening medical emergencies within the community.
In addition to their skills for patient assessment and care, they are qualified to deliver basic life support, provide oxygen therapy or entonox pain relief, and can undertake defibrillation, using an automated external defibrillator, in a cardiac arrest situation.
The personnel who operate the scheme are retained firefighters. This means that they are ‘on call,’ and are not only available within their communities for the normal fire service operations, but also available for attending these medical emergencies.
The support of employers, families and other members within the community, has also contributed to this successful scheme, by allowing these personnel to respond day or night when they are needed within the area where they live or work.