Firefighters are providing vital support to our communities as the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic continue to be felt across our area.
Colleagues from across Hampshire and Isle of Wight Fire and Rescue Service (HIWFRS) are taking on a range of roles to help make life safer as the fight back against the virus continues.
As well as driving ambulances and responding to life-threatening medical calls alongside paramedics, HIWFRS personnel are assisting with the vaccination programme.
And a number of fire stations have been stood-up as pop-up vaccination centres, to give local people the best chance to access their first, second and booster jabs.
Chief Fire Officer Neil Odin said:
“I could not be any prouder of the way colleagues across Hampshire and Isle of Wight Fire and Rescue Service are responding as we stand up and face this pandemic together.
“In December, I asked for volunteers to come forward and assist our communities and our health partners, knowing that Covid-19 was likely to put us all under significant strain during the winter months.
“The response has been amazing. I’m delighted to see how our colleagues are pulling together during this difficult time to offer help where they can, while continuing to make sure that we are still able to fulfil all our core responsibilities as a fire and rescue service.”
In January, eight firefighters were deployed to South Central Ambulance Service (SCAS) to drive ambulances, and a dedicated falls response car is now operating from HIWFRS headquarters in Eastleigh. When crewed, it is available to respond across Hampshire to assist those who have fallen, ensuring that help reaches them as soon as possible.
More than 100 colleagues have volunteered to work in vaccination centres across Hampshire and Isle of Wight, providing vital administration support or assisting with jabs.
And a number of fire stations are also being made available to respond to emergency medical calls as part of a partnership with SCAS to provide the quickest possible care to those in cardiac arrest and other life-threatening situations.
Fire engines from Southsea, Cosham, Basingstoke and Winchester have been available to attend calls alongside paramedics since the end of December.
Now a further five wholetime stations and 31 of our on-call stations are also available to respond in this way to free up ambulances and provide the fastest possible response for patients in need.
All HIWFRS fire engines carry defibrillators and other life-saving kit, and all operational personnel are trained to provide immediate medical care.
CFO Odin said:
“We have a longstanding partnership with SCAS, via our co-responder scheme, which sees firefighters deployed to medical calls in our dedicated Co-Ro cars.
“We have now made some of our fire engines available to respond alongside colleagues from SCAS, to help to ease pressures on the ambulance service.
“Our frontline personnel are already trained and equipped to provide some medical care at incidents and whenever we are in a position to help save a life, it is right that we should respond if we can.”
Mark Ainsworth, Director of Operations at SCAS, said:
“We are very grateful to our colleagues and partners at Hampshire and Isle of Wight Fire and Rescue Service for the support they have given to us and our patients during the pandemic.
“We have been experiencing significant pressure during COVID and throughout the winter. Working together to ensure that our patients get the quickest assistance especially in times of cardiac arrest, contributes to a greater chance of survival for the most critical of patients.
“It is amazing to hear such positive feedback from those firefighters who have been, and continue to, respond with SCAS, both as co-responders and as part of our ambulance crews especially during these challenging times.”
Watch Manager Chris Norgate is based at Hightown Fire Station and has also volunteered to work as an ambulance driver for South Central Ambulance Service as the pressures from Covid-19 continue to be felt across our area.
Here he explains why he wanted to get involved and how his experience with SCAS is helping him to be a better firefighter.
People don’t join the emergency services to get rich. They do it because they want to help those who need it, and I am no different.
Over the last few difficult years, everyone from firefighters, ambulance staff and police, to teachers, hospital porters and scientists, have taken on different responsibilities to meet the dynamic changes we’ve all had to face daily to protect ourselves, our loved ones and each other.
I became involved with driving ambulances for our colleagues at South Central Ambulance Service (SCAS) because Hampshire and Isle of Wight Fire and Rescue Service (HIWFRS) has given me the support and training required to be able to step up.
I also had the time, between my regular firefighting shifts, to volunteer to take on this additional responsibility.
On the face of it, people may think working for the ambulance service is very different from working for the fire service. There are differences but in both we are here to serve and protect our communities, working long hours to provide protection, acting as insurance against those times we all hope we will never live through.
Both roles need people who can talk to others, quickly build trust and communication, gather information, and make informed judgements on how best to progress for a successful outcome.
In the fire service we save people from fires, release people from crashed vehicles and rescue them from heights and other dangerous situations, often providing immediate emergency care before handing over to the ambulance service.
On top of the extensive first aid training I’ve received, and my experience on a busy co-responder station – responding in a car to medical emergencies on behalf of the ambulance service – plus my qualifications to drive fire appliances and cars on blue lights, SCAS gave additional training to drive their ambulances and how to use the life-saving equipment they carry.
Working under a fully qualified paramedic, I help with patient assessments, carry out observations and checks to allow the paramedic to treat them accordingly.
By taking this new role I can not only use my existing skills to help those around me, but I’ve also learned so much more about casualty care at the scene of an incident and how that person is cared for throughout.
It allows me to see how my actions as a firefighter or co-responder affects what happens further along their journey.
Everyone at Hightown Ambulance Station and SCAS have been fantastic, helpful, and so friendly.
The paramedics have been great, showing me how to do more, ask better questions and understand how to provide better casualty care.