A pilot scheme, which will see Lurgan firefighters act as first responders with the NI Ambulance Service, is to start on Monday.
The scheme will see NIFRS alerted to certain emergency incidents such as cardiac/respiratory arrest and chest pain calls.
NIFRS crews in the Lurgan area will be notified of some calls. Though it has been emphasised that an ambulance response will also be despatched to the call and that NIFRS attendance is not an alternative to the normal NIAS response.
The pilot will run for six months and it is hoped that it will prove to be of benefit to the local community by providing greater potential for early CPR and defibrillation.
Local firefighters, and who may arrive in advance of Paramedics, will be trained to “First Person on Scene; Intermediate” level which will enable them to administer lifesaving medical treatment and stabilise the situation until Paramedics arrive.
Mark Cochrane, NIAS Area Manager, said; “We already work closely with NIFRS colleagues at Road Traffic Collisions and Major Incidents. This pilot also builds on the collaborative work that NIAS has undertaken through Community First Response and Public Access Defibrillation schemes. We believe that this initiative will add significantly to the ability to commence CPR at the earliest possible moment. We highlight, quite extensively, that the delivery of early CPR and defibrillation to patients in cardiac arrest are the main factors that greatly enhance their chances of survival.
“The ambulance service will continue to respond to such calls as Category A response but the best thing for the patient is to ensure that someone trained in basic life support is at their side as quickly as possible.”
Gary Thompson, Assistant Chief Fire Officer said: “NIFRS is committed to exploring opportunities for collaborative working to deliver an improved service to the community. I believe this pilot scheme is a very positive development and underlines our vision of protecting our community.”
He thanked Lurgan Fire Station and the Regional Control Centre personnel for their commitment and professionalism. “I would like to reassure the local community that providing fire and rescue cover will always remain a priority and that essential cover is in place during the pilot scheme.”
The scheme will run for six months from 19 September and will be evaluated by both services to examine its potential for continuation and further roll out throughout Northern Ireland.