Firefighters on the front line

FIREFIGHTERS are an integral part of dealing with the consequences of a serious or fatal accident.

FIREFIGHTERS are an integral part of dealing with the consequences of a serious or fatal accident.

Attending between 500 and 600 accidents a year, the crews know more than most about the horrors involved.

Suffolk Fire and Rescue form a key part of the Save A Life campaign, as they are not only one of the first to arrive on the scene but they also do a lot of work on road safety education.

Ken Williamson, assistant divisional officer, said: “Predominantly the accidents we attend are at the more serious end. People are either physically or medically trapped. Our role is casualty-focused and trying to release the casualty from a vehicle as safely and quickly as possible working with the ambulance service and police.

“This is a very important campaign. Take seatbelts for example. If you are not restrained in a vehicle, it increases the effect the accident has on your body. Even at a relatively low speed, if you have an accident without a seatbelt, the consequences could be grave.”

It can be so tough on firefighters that following a serious or fatal crash, they are given a critical debrief back at the station, which gives the crew a chance to discuss their feelings about the incident. They also have access to counselling through occupational health.

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Ass Div Williamson said: “For most firefighters, when you are at an incident, you are focused on the job. Once it is over and you go home, you do sometimes think about what you have seen.

“These accidents affect so many people, from the family and friends of the victim to road users, and the emergency services. At the end of the day you do take away those feelings from a scene because we are all human.”

The Evening Star, alongside Suffolk County Council, Suffolk Constabulary, Suffolk Safecam, the Highways Agency and the East of England Ambulance Service, has launched a ten-week Save a Life campaign to reduce the numbers of those getting killed or seriously injured on our county's roads.

The campaign aims to raise awareness of the shocking statistics surrounding the amount of accidents on Suffolk's roads, which could be so easily avoided by just thinking before getting behind the wheel.

Among the core areas to be tackled throughout the campaign are speeding, using mobile phones while driving, drink and drug driving, not wearing seatbelts.

Has the fire service helped you during an accident? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN.

EDUCATING young people about road safety is vital in preventing accidents in the future, a top firefighter claims.

There are several initiatives in the county which have been set up to address this issue.

RoadKill, which is led by the Fire and Rescue Service in partnership with Suffolk County Council's road safety team, police, doctors and members of RoadPeace, is aimed at youth offenders in the Ipswich area.

Young people who have committed motoring offences or are deemed highly likely to do so, are required to attend the day's course as part of their court order. Those involved have a practical session with a driving simulator so they become aware of the dangers on the roads and RoadPeace representatives also discuss their personal grief and tragic experiences.

Learn and Live is another initiative, which is targeted at those who have not yet reached driving age or are new drivers. It involved firefighters going in to schools or colleges and showing the young people presentations. The idea is to educate them in road safety in a bid to prevent the likelihood of them causing accidents in the future.

Assistant divisional officer Ken Williamson said: “We are aiming our resources at the age group of 16 to 24 and the reason is this has been identified as the group most likely of having or causing an accident.”