Obesity prompts new firefighter training

INCREASING numbers of obese people in the county is forcing emergency services to investigate new ways of getting them out of their homes - without injuring their workers.

By Jessica Nicholls

INCREASING numbers of obese people in the county is forcing emergency services to investigate new ways of getting them out of their homes - without injuring their workers.

Firefighters are increasingly called out to help the ambulance service move particularly heavy people from their homes for emergency treatment but until now there has been no specific training or equipment to help them.

Now Suffolk Fire Service is in discussion with East Anglian Ambulance Trust, Ipswich Hospital, Suffolk Social Services and specialist handling people to put proper training in place and to invest in new equipment to help them do their job properly. Health and safety representatives are also involved.

It emerged recently that an unnamed firefighter injured himself around Christmas time while trying to move a heavy patient to get them to hospital on time.

Two years ago the fire service was also involved in the high profile rescue of Paul Mason, who needed to be taken to hospital but could not get out of his house in Woodhouse Square, Ipswich. He was more than 40 stone and some walls had to be removed from the Ipswich house to get him out.

Most Read

More funding is also being put in place to buy equipment for deep water and river rescues as again, there is no specific equipment or training in place.

Lee Howlett, is assistant chief fire officer (operations) at Suffolk Fire. He said that the new measures will help the service to become more of a rescue service rather than just a fire fighting service.

He said: "It is an ambulance service issue and it is their statuatory obligation to help.

"If we are going to assist we need to make sure the equipment and training we are giving is appropriate."

Until now, fire fighters have had to do the best they can with the equipment on their trucks and a crew would automatically be sent out once the call came to the control room.

That is now likely to change and an assessment of the situation and what expertise and equipment is needed will be made before a whole crew gets sent out to the scene.

Mr Howlett said: "Taking people to hospital is only one solution.

"There are now a range of other options like treating people at home or at the scene.

"From their point of view (ambulance service) how they deal with the issue is up to them but we are on hand to assist because we provide a wider scale role as a fire and rescue service.

"But we can only do that with the right equipment and training."

Matthew Ware, spokesman for East Anglian Ambulance Trust said: "We recognise that with a population which is becoming larger there may be greater need in the future to consider how best to deal with lifting and moving very heavy patients in an emergency setting but also in other healthcare settings."

He said that in the future there could be specialist lifting teams with special equipment ready to mobilise across the patch as at the moment most stretchers and hospital beds are only designed to hold up to 25 stone.

With the new strategies in place emergency crews can take time to assess a situation so that both patients and workers are safer.

However if there was a fire and it was a life or death situation that the person needed to be moved immediately, Ken Seager (deputy chief fire officer?) said the fire crews would do whatever they could with their equipment at that time to save lives.

He said: "These are two different incidents and that is what we tell our staff. You do put your life at risk if someone is in peril."

Deep water rescues are also being looked at as part of a national initiative. Boats and wet suits among other rescue equipment is to be bought to help keep crews safe with these kind of rescues.