SPECIAL REPORT: Our firefighters on the frontline in 999 medical calls
When a call goes at two or three in the morning, Paul Derrick is out of bed and in the car.
He’s one of a team of firefighters trained as emergency co-responders to work alongside our 999 medical emergency teams.
Based at Spalding Fire Station, he has been a co-responder for a year and can deal with everything from a cardiac arrest to reports of a patient with chest pains or breathing problems.
Last year, the crew at Spalding responded to 700 medical emergency calls.
The aim is to support paramedics and crews from East Midlands Ambulance Service (EMAS) and Lincolnshire Integrated Voluntary Emergency Service (LIVES) to get lifesaving medical care to people as soon as possible.
Other fire stations that have co-responders are Crowland, Donington, Holbeach, Long Sutton, Kirton, Market Deeping, Bourne, Billingborough and Billinghay.
Doing this job has made us all think about life and what it holds for us in the future
Richard Hunter, Ambulance Operations Manager for EMAS, said: “Across Lincolnshire we have 28 emergency fire responders (EFR’s) from Lincolnshire Fire and Rescue who attend ambulance 999 emergency calls within their local communities.
“This means they can arrive quickly and start to deliver lifesaving care until an ambulance clinician arrives.
“EFR schemes showcase the outstanding teamwork between emergency service colleagues across Lincolnshire and the dedication in providing the best possible care for patients.”
Pete Wiles, Deputy Divisional Commander at Lincolnshire Fire and Rescue, previously told us: “Where a co-responder fire crew can be on scene before the nearest ambulance or paramedic, responders can administer life-saving first aid and stabilise a situation until advanced medical care arrives.
“We respond to cardiac and respiratory arrest and similar life threatening emergencies within eight minutes of a call and 21 out of 38 fire stations currently operate the scheme.
“We are proud of all of the crews who respond in this way and routinely save lives. Some of the people they have helped would undoubtedly not be here today without them.”
Unlike paramedics, firefighter co-responders do not carry medication, but they are equipped with lifesaving kit such as defibrillators. These can deliver a high energy electric shock to the chest wall of someone who is in cardiac arrest and get the heart beating again.
The kit that Paul carries also includes an oxygen canister and mask, first aid kit, pulse oximeter to check heart rate and oxygen levels in a patient; plus an i-gel which is used to clear a blockage in a person’s airways.
Having the team on stand-by to respond to medical emergencies can mean the difference between life or death in many cases.
Shortly before Christmas, Paul and a colleague were called out to Springfields in Spalding when 35-year-old Holbeach mum Rachel Ingall collapsed due to a heart condition.
They were among the first on the scene, checking her vital signs, and had a defibrillator open and on stand-by before paramedics arrived and took over.
Rachel spoke to the Spalding Guardian following the incident and told how the fire crew, LIVES first responders and paramedics helped to save her life.
Paul (48) said: “We do not often hear back about what has happened after we have left the scene.
“We’re on call 24/7 and you’ll get basic information through about an incident.
“So you’ll know how old the person is, what gender they are, what their condition is, and if there is back up coming. So we’re doing an assessment on route.”
The co-responders’ cars are equipped with blue lights, so they can get to an emergency as quickly as possible.
The light on the roof of the car also helps to illuminate house numbers at night so co-responders can locate a property.
This is particularly helpful in areas where street lights are being switched off.
Paul was a Royal Engineer in the army for over 12 years and also worked in bomb disposal, before joining the fire service.
A dad-of-two and grandad to four-month-old Logan, he said: “Doing this job has made us all think about life and what it holds for us in the future.
“We have a new outlook on how we live our life now.”
○ Emergency fire responders (EFRs) are dispatched at the same time as an ambulance, says East Midlands Ambulance Service.
Firefighters already receive a high level of medical training as part of their role with the fire service; and each EFR is then individually trained to enhance their existing medical knowledge.
Long Sutton Fire Station also has its own fully equipped ambulance – part of a Joint Ambulance Conveyance Project (JACP).
EFRs will respond to an incident in the ambulance, and at the same time a paramedic is also dispatched in a car.
If a patient needs transporting to hospital a paramedic will travel with the patient in the ambulance, which is driven by an EFR.
This means that another emergency ambulance is available to attend another patient.
The EFRs who drive the JACP ambulances are not on duty as operational fire fighters at the time. These are additional staff.
Every day EMAS receives over 2,500 emergency 999 calls.