How our emergency services work closely together to help keep us safe
In her latest blog PCC Alison Hernandez highlights ‘blue light’ partnerships and how the police and fire services will collaborate even more in the future
Over the last couple of years there has been much talk about ‘blue light’ integration. It’s fair to say that a suggestion that police and crime commissioners also run fire and rescue services has been met with a mixed response. In any case, this is not an increase in my duties that I am pressing for. Firstly my PCC workload is already heavy, and secondly it is clear that the local fire services are well run and effective.
Our emergency services already work closely together and there are great examples about how this joined up approach greatly benefits our communities. I have often visited Hayle where ‘tri-service’ safety officer Andy Hichens can respond to all types of emergency calls. Originally an on-call firefighter at Camborne, Andy is now also trained as a police community support officer and paramedic. He has always said that this is a lifestyle choice and not just a job.
The resilience this offers communities like this, in one of the largest police force areas in the country, cannot be underestimated. We've learnt lots from him trying to serve our community in this way and are now recruiting more - the force is transforming the workforce and testing out new ways of working collaboratively.
PCSO’s have also been trained as retained fire fighters in North Devon in a successful pilot scheme and it’s clear that initiatives like this are working and are likely to be used in many more places.
I am delighted that this healthy and growing relationship between police and fire has now been formally recognised in the last few days. Chief Constable Shaun Sawyer and Chief Fire Officers for Devon and Somerset and also Cornwall (IoS) have signed an agreement which is, in effect, a vision for even greater collaboration. This sets out how we will all gain from joint community safety initiatives that protect the most vulnerable in our society. Among the main benefits is an increased ability to share intelligence to reduce the risk of deliberate fire setting and anti-social behaviour (one of the things that local people want to talk to me about most often)
Let me give you more examples about how this will make a difference, and in some cases potentially save lives:
In high risk missing person searches, the police will be able to use fire service urban search and rescue teams (USAR). This will utilise different search techniques depending on the condition of the missing person. For instance they may suffer from dementia or be a possible suicide risk.
A pilot is taking place in 17 fire stations within our rural communities for police to interview members of the public who prefer not to visit a police station, or do not have a local police station where they live. This allows greater access to the police
There are also opportunities when people have concerns for the welfare of a loved one behind a locked door, usually at their home, and forced entry is required. The fire service can attend these incidents instead of the police and work closely with the ambulance service.
Recently I was very pleased to be able to visit the Cornwall fire service HQ at Tolvaddon which also has responsibility as a monitoring hub for more than 100 CCTV cameras located in many Cornish towns. Potential evidence from these cameras is quickly made available to the police when an immediate response is vital. This also helps when an officers have to deal with rowdy situations, perhaps in the night-time economy, when they may be outnumbered. A call to the CCTV operators enables them to watch the developing incident live and respond accordingly. Indeed, the very presence of the moving camera, pointed out by the police present, can quickly prevent an incident escalating. This reassurance for our officers cannot be underestimated.
So collaboration is vital for our long term community safety. It is central to my police and crime plan and many of my visits and meetings with individuals and groups take place with this objective in mind. The police and fire service in the far south west have a clear vision about how they can work together for the benefit of our communities and I very much welcome it. I am looking forward to seeing how this partnership really makes a difference.