Firefighters to be trained to assist North West Ambulance Service in response to Covid crisis

Date published: 17 February 2021

Firefighters are joining the Army in being redeployed to the North West Ambulance Service (NWAS) to help it respond to the Covid crisis.

42 firefighters started a three day education programme with NWAS from Monday 15 February with teams from Merseyside, Cumbria, Greater Manchester and Cheshire undertaking training in kit familiarisation, driving and basic life support.

After the fire service stepped forward with an offer to help, it was agreed that it would be sensible to train personnel so they could be activated at short notice in the event of a future surge in demand.

One of the advantages for NWAS of working with the fire service is their existing ability to drive on blue lights.

However, as with the military, firefighters would assist clinicians in attending low level emergencies, enabling ambulance crews to be freed up to respond to the more urgent, life-threatening incidents.

Director of Operations, Ged Blezard commented: “We work very closely with all our blue light partners – we attend resilience forums together, train together, respond together and in some cases, even share premises.

“In times like these, the public expect organisations like the blue light services to work together and it would be irresponsible not to accept the offer when it is extended to us.

“Initiatives such as this are a great example of public services working together to ensure people get the response they need and expect when they are vulnerable, and we are extremely grateful for the fire services for offering this support.”

Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service (GMFRS) Assistant Chief Fire Officer Leon Parkes said: “Our staff have helped with PPE distribution, contact tracing, supporting local authorities contacting vulnerable residents, and more recently we have been supporting at testing and vaccination sites as well as contacting residents in South Manchester to make them aware of the ongoing surge testing.

“A number of our firefighters have stepped forward to assist our colleagues at NWAS by driving ambulances, responding to emergencies, and helping NWAS paramedics where necessary. I would also like to thank local Fire Brigades Union (FBU) representatives for their support for this work.

“The health and wellbeing of our staff is paramount and we will ensure that our firefighters working with NWAS have the right training and right protection for the role. We are grateful to our firefighters for offering to assist NWAS and we are confident that whilst providing this support, we will not compromise fire cover in Greater Manchester.

“Whilst there is no urgent requirement for deployment, we are preparing to respond swiftly. GMFRS is ready, willing and able to support our partners in Greater Manchester and we will continue to protect communities by responding to incidents throughout the pandemic.”  

Bev Hughes, Greater Manchester’s Deputy Mayor for Policing, Crime, Criminal Justice and Fire, said: “Our emergency services have done an exceptional job in responding to the challenges faced by the Covid-19 pandemic to protect and support our communities while also dealing with day-to-day incidents and emergencies. I’d like to commend them for their continued hard work. 

“Blue light services and partner agencies in Greater Manchester and across the North West regularly work, train and respond to emergencies together, and this initiative takes that collaborative working even further.

“If needed, our firefighters will be able to assist paramedics to ensure they can provide an effective response to people who need it, and I’d like to thank all those involved in making this happen.” 

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