FIREFIGHTERS at Wickham have applauded an initiative which allows crew members to attend medical emergencies.
Last March the village fire station in Mill Lane was given a co-responder car, which enables trained firefighters to administer initial first aid.
And one year on, the service has been hailed as ‘marvellous’.
Since the car was introduced to the station, it has attended 415 life threatening calls.
Firefighters who use the car, which comes equipped with medical equipment such as a defibrillator, undergo specialist training.
They are then on call to attend emergencies and work alongside the ambulance service.
Firefighter Graham Pike, who is trained to use the co-responder car, said: ‘Sometimes we get about 15 calls a week.
‘We attend emergencies that range from heart attacks, people collapsing to people falling from a height.
‘I think it is a marvellous scheme.
‘When you arrive peoples’ faces light up because you’re there to help a friend or family member.
‘A recent example of how we helped was when I was called out to a man who was not breathing.
‘On arrival I opened his airway, used a defibrillator then carried out CPR until the ambulance service arrived.’
The scheme was created in 2004 and piloted in three stations before being rolled out across the county.
It was written by station manager Rob Cole, who also emphasises the good work the service provides.
He said: ‘The firefighters have a small high visible vehicle and they respond in a medical emergency, which means you leave the front line fire engine in place for other callouts. It’s cost effective for us because we have one person going in the car, which means we’re not having to roll out the big engine and we have a full crew to attend other emergencies.
‘It also means we can sometimes reach a person quicker than an ambulance and start administering first aid.
‘The Wickham co-responder car is always in Wickham so geographically we can reach areas faster. That is also key to the ethos of the scheme.
‘If you dial 999 and the emergency was a code A then it’s the most life threatening.
‘Two calls would then go out to the ambulance service and to a co-responder car – the car does not replace the ambulance service, but enhances it.’