On-call firefighters set to be community responders visit the Devon and Cornwall Police control room at Middlemoor.
This innovative police and fire collaboration project is funded by the Police and Crime Commissioner and will improve access to the emergency services for communities in Devon.
These new 'community responders' will have the ability to go to both fire and police incidents, increasing both police presence and the number of available on-call firefighters in communities.
This unique pilot project is a national first, encompassing the skills of an on-call firefighter and special constable in a single post.
Seven community responders have been recruited into locations where there is a need based on risk, vulnerability and harm.
Cullompton, Crediton, Dartmouth, Honiton, Okehampton, Newton Abbot and Totnes are all set to have a community responder later this year.
The project will improve response times in rural locations, better connect with the public and deliver joined up prevention activities providing a better service to our communities keeping everyone safe.
Police and Crime Commissioner for Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly Alison Hernandez has committed funding for an initial two years covering recruitment and ongoing training costs with the possibility of extending further. This forms part of the PCC’s commitment to improving collaboration between the emergency services in her Police and Crime Plan.
“I’m incredibly pleased to be able to support this collaboration. We don’t know what future funding will look like for any of our emergency services and working together on unique projects like this will improve the service both organisations can deliver to people in Devon.” said Alison.
“I look forward to seeing the benefits that our communities will reap from this innovative work.”
Kevin Pearce who will be the new community responder for Cullompton says he was motivated to take on the role by a lifelong interest in police work.
He said: “I think this pilot will be really beneficial – it will mean I can be more of a presence in the community and a face that people will recognise and can approach about both police and fire related incidents and we can help reach more people.
“Everyone that I’ve spoken to about the project seem quite excited about it, it’s great to be able to enhance the presence of emergency services in communities where it’s needed. I’m really looking forward to being at the forefront of this trial.”
Chief Inspector Tom Holmes, the Devon and Cornwall Police lead for emergency services collaboration said: “This project provides an excellent opportunity for both police and fire to add additional officers into our communities who will be able to approach every issue from 2 points of view.
“Importantly they will also be able to answer calls for service and maintain fire cover in some of our most isolated communities. This is a national first the potential of which both services share a huge excitement about.”
Group Manager Jeff Harding, of Devon and Somerset Fire & Rescue Service, said: “We’re really pleased to take part in this initiative as it supports on-call firefighters in areas where we have recruitment challenges. The service provided to people living in these towns will be enhanced as the community responders will be able to provide visibility and advice to the public across both roles.”
Community responders are due to be in situ in spring 2019.
Existing special constables are now being offered the opportunity to train as on call firefighters to expand the number of locations where community responders will operate.
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