In previous columns I’ve spoken about the need for the fire service to widen the scope of its work.
The number of fires has been steadily falling, thanks in part to our ongoing community work, education programmes and home safety visits.
Our firefighters already brilliantly perform a wide range of other duties, from people rescues to flooding, and road traffic collisions to lift releases, but there is capacity to do more.
So I think it’s natural for us to start thinking about the wider role we can play in supporting the work of other local authorities, particularly councils, hospitals and the ambulance service in delivering the national public health agenda.
On that basis, I’m pleased we will soon be responding to selected medical emergency calls in addition to ambulance resources, thanks to the launch of the county’s first Emergency First Responder (EFR) scheme.
Stocksbridge fire station will become the first in South Yorkshire to run the scheme, which will see appropriately trained firefighters sent to medical emergencies such as heart attacks and people who have collapsed.
All firefighters who have volunteered to be part of this scheme are being trained in basic life support, cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and oxygen therapy.
They will carry a trauma kit, which includes oxygen and a defibrillator.
Our responders will be sent at the same time as an ambulance and will not replace the usual emergency medical response from Yorkshire Ambulance Service.
However, because our responders may be closer to the scene than an ambulance, particularly in more rural parts of our county, it is hoped they will deliver life-saving care in the first critical minutes of a medical emergency.
Emergency first responders are only available for dispatch when staffing levels at their fire station allow and the scheme will not affect fire cover.
Our role as a fire service is of course to protect our communities and reach and save those in danger who are in need of our help as quickly as possible.
With this in mind, this joined-up approach can only enhance the service we provide and will improve outcomes for people in need across South Yorkshire.