The employers are proposing huge changes to the role of a Firefighter, which could have significant implications, including safety, not to mention the impact on the other emergency services which we reply upon.
Over the past few weeks, the STUC has been speaking to firefighters about these proposed changes and what it means to the people who actually deliver the services rather than those who strategize from above.
Voices from the Station
As for plugging gaps as ancillary paramedics and support workers. Plugging gaps? The question has be asked about why the gaps are there in the first place? Then, what kind of training are we going to get on this? It sounds a pretty casual, ad hoc, sort of thing, which I think belittles the people who do this job already and says a lot about how we’re seen. It takes a lot of training to become a paramedic and I can tell from experience that being in an emergency situation with someone dying on you, while you try to do the best you can with limited knowledge is not pleasant. Certainly, it deserves to be classed as something much more than plugging a gap.
Support workers? What does this mean? Again, what training will we get? And why us? Are we a good fit? My mum get two care visits a day and the workers that do these are fantastic, but they do things that I’m not sure I could, or would want to do. Like showering an older person after they’ve had an accident, or wiping their bum, or cooking their tea and feeding it to them. So I didn’t go into that vocation.
And conversely, they say they wouldn’t want to drag somebody out of a fire in a house, or have to cut people out of cars who have sustained horrendous injuries, or cut dead bodies out of cars and get them into body bags while pieces of brains fall out of the hole in their forehead. So they didn’t join the Fire Service.
I’m not being overly dramatic here, these are things I’ve done this year.
There’s a definite case for us expanding our role into some kind of emergency medical response, co-responding to out of hospital cardiac arrests, for example. A successful trial scheme was recently rolled out and independent research, commissioned by the FBU, suggested that there might be a good fit and could make a life-saving impact. However, due to the breakdown in pay negotiations we halted all the trials as we felt that we’re not even being paid enough for what we do now, let alone taking on extra roles that require more skills and training and that would ultimately save lives and save millions of pounds across the board. (See New Economy Report and University of Hertforshire Research). We’ve been asking for a cordless drill for 5 years to help when we’re fitting smoke detectors in people’s houses and been continually knocked back.
On the subject of training, prior to moving to a single Fire and Rescue Service, the area I worked in was Lothian and Borders. We had a really good training facility in Gullane, with buildings to do hot fire training (moving around in hot, dark conditions, rescuing dummies etc), fire behaviour training (think Backdraught – the movie), there was a road section for doing multi-car road traffic accidents, we could train for hazmats incidents and we regularly ran courses to train officers to deal with the command aspects of a whole range of different incident types.
There was another hot fire training facility at Fillyside by Seafield in Edinburgh, and another at McDonald Road in the station yard. These were used successfully for years and provided me with the training that led to me being a well-trained, professional firefighter, then Crew Manager.
Since 2013, all three of these have closed and for the past couple of years the only facility in the East of Scotland is at Thornton in Glenrothes. Not that handy for anyone but especially anyone south of the city bypass. If the wind’s blowing the wrong way we can’t even have a fire burning due to the smoke travel to the neighbours. Honest.