Fire fighters turn medics to save lives

Picture by Julian Brown for LEP 24/08/15  Pictured left, Crew Manager Mark Cookson, John Taylor, acting as a patient and Firefighter Martin Sears take part in a drill  Launch of Community First Responder Scheme at Morecambe Fire Station  where Morecambe fire fighters will be trained to deal with medical 999 calls until ambulances arrive.
Picture by Julian Brown for LEP 24/08/15 Pictured left, Crew Manager Mark Cookson, John Taylor, acting as a patient and Firefighter Martin Sears take part in a drill Launch of Community First Responder Scheme at Morecambe Fire Station where Morecambe fire fighters will be trained to deal with medical 999 calls until ambulances arrive.

If you’re having a heart attack it might be a fire officer who saves your life.

Thanks to a new scheme in Morecambe – one of the first of its kind in the country – trained fire fighters will be sent out ahead of ambulances to help people in medical emergencies.

The fire officer ‘first responders’ will be called if they are nearer to an incident than an ambulance.

They will only be sent to situations classed as red 1 (cardiac arrests) and red 2 (other life-threatening conditions) and an ambulance will still be called out too.

While the fire engines have been dubbed ‘fire-ambulances’ or ‘fambulances’ in Lincolnshire where another similar pilot scheme has been held, they will not transport patients to hospital.

Fire officers will also be redirected should they be called out to a fire or an incident requiring their expertise like a serious road crash, whilst en route to a medical call.

Ambulance and fire chiefs are hailing the project as “extremely positive” in the fight to save more lives.

The six month pilot scheme, operating from Morecambe and covering the town, Heysham, Bare, Torrisholme and Overton, began on 
Monday. All fire fighters are trained in first aid, but Morecambe officers taking part in the scheme have been given extra training in how to recognise a cardiac arrest, dealing with fits, giving oxygen and dealing with an obstructive airway.

They will also be given suction units, pulse oximeters and bandages, as well as the defibrillators and oxygen already carried by fire crews.

North West Ambulance Service receives, on average, 260 calls for patients in life-threatening situations every day across Lancashire.

The newly-trained fire team will join the ranks of 348 Community First Responders (CFRs) across the county. CFRs are trained volunteers from the general public who give up their time to save lives.

They arrived on the scene for 3992 red calls in 2014/15 across Lancashire.

Derek Cartwright, North West Ambulance Service Director of Operations, said: “This is an extremely positive project. This is our opportunity to use the fantastic expertise the fire service has in dealing with emergencies and get help to patients as quickly as possible. Rural and semi-rural towns like Morecambe are a particular challenge for the ambulance service. If a patient suffers from a cardiac arrest for example, their chance of survival reduces by around 10% for every minute treatment is delayed.”

Justin Johnston, deputy chief fire officer of Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service, said: “It makes absolute sense for our firefighters to become Community First 
Responders.”

Emergency teams in Lancaster and Morecambe have been dealing with an increased number of 999 calls in recent years, with North West Ambulance Service call-outs rising by 8.1% overall in 2014/15 and 11% for red calls.

An extra ambulance and rapid response vehicle will be on the road in the district to help cope with demand.

Ambulances have to respond to red 1 and 2 calls within eight minutes in 75 per cent of cases and 19 minutes in 95 per cent of cases.