South Yorkshire emergency services have joined forces to form a new super squad.
City firefighters and police are linking up with Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust to launch a new team to attend lower priority incidents in Sheffield, aimed at reducing demand on 999 responders.
Local Intervention and Falls Episodes operation will see fire and police staff visit hundreds of homes to reduce fire risk in properties, improve security and help people who have fallen while contributing to reducing risk of falls.
The team will respond to help people at high volume, lower priority incidents, which can take police officers and paramedics off the road for many hours.
Those incidents include helping residents who have had a fall, are not seriously injured, but are unable to get up on their own. Their work will also involve carrying out welfare visits relating to low risk missing people and vulnerable people who are risk of anti-social behaviour.
The team will operate using two specialist vehicles and will consist of four staff - two South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue employees and two South Yorkshire Police community support officers.
The scheme has been funded by South Yorkshire Fire Authority for six months and researchers from the University of Huddersfield have been commissioned to evaluate its effectiveness. If successful, it could be extended and taken to other parts of South Yorkshire.
SYFR Head of Prevention and Protection Steve Helps said: “The fire service already does far more than simply fighting fires and rescuing people from road traffic collisions. Really, this team is just an extension of our vision to make our communities safer.
“We also know that there are huge links between the people who need the help of the police and health services, and those who are at risk of fire. So strengthening our knowledge and referral mechanisms through collaborative working such as this must surely benefit our public safety work.”
South Yorkshire Police Chief Inspector Jenny Lax, said: “This is an exciting and innovative way of working in collaboration to help reduce risk and vulnerability within our communities, and improve their quality of life.
“The team will support the work of South Yorkshire Police, working in local communities to provide a service that includes a range of prevention advice spanning all three emergency services to help improve safety.”
Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust Deputy Medical Director Dr Steven Dykes said: “This is a great example of a number of organisations working together effectively and using the skills of their staff to benefit residents in the local area by providing the most appropriate care and support for their needs.
"The pilot is a good opportunity to explore how we can further develop partnership initiatives with our emergency service colleagues.”
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.
In South Yorkshire, fire crews already attend hundreds of ‘medical break-ins’ every year, where they gain access to properties where people are thought to be in need of urgent medical attention, but where ambulance service paramedics cannot get to them. This work used to be carried out by the police.
Plans have also been approved for a joint police and fire station in Maltby, whilst five ambulance stand-by points will also be created at five other fire service premises across the county.