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The Swiss Army knives of the emergency services

On Friday, in bright early summer sunshine, five new Tri-Service Safety Officers (TSSOs) completed their training at Police headquarters in Middlemoor, Exeter.

The Swiss Army knives of the emergency services

Kate Bourn, Megan Buckley, Gemma Campbell, Kevin Goodreid and Chloe Townsend will now join 13 colleagues who serve communities across Cornwall, and one in Devon for the first time, after completing six weeks of training.

These officers, as the name suggests, work across the three services of the police, fire and NHS. They are police community support officers, on-call firefighters attached to a local station and NHS first-responders.

TSSOs are jointly funded by Devon and Cornwall Police, Cornwall’s fire service and the local NHS, with some funding coming from the South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust and some through the integrated care system.

The lifesaving TSSOs are already considered ‘an essential part of Cornwall’s emergency services team’ although they were only established in a pilot scheme 11 years ago.

A TSSO’s main duties are wide-ranging and complex. They include responding to 999 calls for fire and rescue and ambulance services, dealing with non-immediate police logs and community safety matters, completing and welfare visits, resolving neighbourhood policing issues, working with antisocial behaviour teams, supporting neighbourhood policing team, and assisting with neighbourhood inquiries such as non-emergency 101 calls made to the police.

While attending a police neighbourhood dispute, they may fit a smoke alarm, make a mental health referral, signpost a family to a third sector organisation or explore suitable pathways to other available support services.

A perfect example of their skillset in action occurred on the day before the pass-out when a TSSO was taking part in a hotspot patrol – additional high visibility exercises funded via my office – in Penzance. While a police officer dealt with a drug user another one became unconscious and the TSSO was able to use his first responder skills to revive the individual, potentially saving a life.

Originally designed to serve remote rural and coastal areas, this proven model has been so well received that it is being expanded into Devon for the first time, with one of the recent recruits being stationed in Holsworthy in a two-year pilot.

This innovative role is gaining national attention too, with St Austell and Newquay MP Steve Double praising the initiative in a House of Commons debate, telling MPs in February that “The value of TSSOs cannot be overstated and saying they had been “hugely welcomed by the communities they serve”.

Establishing a new emergency services role is never easy. It required complex data sharing agreements, funding arrangements and even the design of a new uniform and logo. But once again our corner of England has led the way on finding practical, partnership solutions to the unique challenges our police force area.

A lot of TSSOs’ work will be preventative, and partnership work to stop harmful incidents from occurring will always be worth investing in.

We are also trying to prevent harm with the Vision Zero South West road safety partnership, which aims to cut the number of deaths and serious injuries on Devon and Cornwall roads.

I would like to say a big thank you to the VZ team who, at the Devon County Show, spoke to hundreds of visitors and encouraged many to sign their road safety pledge.

If we are going to build safer, resilient and connected communities where everyone has a part to play greater collaboration between public services in this way, fresh thinking and the will to try something new will be essential.