Firefighters are attending hundreds more incidents each year in a unique arrangement with the county’s police force.
South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue says it has attended more than 1,800 ‘medical break-in’ incidents since July 2014- when it became the first fire service in the country to take on this type of work.
It sees firefighters provide humanitarian assistance at emergencies where people are thought to be in need of urgent medical attention, but where ambulance service paramedics cannot get to them, for example when they are locked indoors.
Firefighters will normally use specialist equipment to break into properties, allowing paramedics to quickly deliver help to patients. The equipment and skills they use also means less damage is caused when entering properties and crews can help to make the scene safe afterwards.
The work used to be carried out by police officers, so is helping to save thousands of hours of police time each year. The scheme was the first of its kind in the country when it was first trialled in Rotherham in September 2014, but has now been adopted by other UK fire and rescue services.
This type of incident now comprises a growing element of fire service incident activity in South Yorkshire. Officers say the arrangement is another example of the valuable contribution of the modern fire and rescue service, on top of the thousands of fires and other emergencies like road traffic collisions and water rescues the service attends across the county each year.
Head of Emergency Response Tony Carlin, said: “We provide a first class emergency response to the people of South Yorkshire, but the skills and equipment our firefighters have mean we can apply that service to more than just fires.
“This arrangement benefits everyone. For the police it helps them to concentrate their resources on other areas of work. For our firefighters, they get experience of a wider range of emergency incidents and get to apply their extensive training to an even wider set of situations. For patients themselves, it means they can receive they medical attention they need as efficiently as possible.”
South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner Dr Alan Billings said: “All the emergency services are working together in South Yorkshire to make our resources go further and avoid duplication. I welcome these initiatives by colleagues in the Fire Service. It is saving a lot of police time which can be better spent on directly fighting crime. I look forward to working more closely with both the Fire and Ambulance services in the future.”
Last year the Government announced new proposals to transform the way the police, fire and rescue and ambulance services work together. It wants to encourage collaboration by introducing a new statutory duty on all three emergency services to look at opportunities to work with one another better to improve efficiency and effectiveness.