Fire crews may step in on first aid

KELLY DENNETT
Last updated 05:00 21/01/2014

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Don't be surprised if you call an ambulance and have a fire crew show up first.

Fire crews are now requested to co-respond to all immediate life threatening calls such as cardiac arrests where previously it was only some incidents. All calls are backed by the closest available ambulance.

The new procedure comes after a nine year understanding between St John Ambulance and the New Zealand Fire Service was formalised.

St John head of planning and service development Peter Tranter says the objective is to use all available resources in immediate life-threatening emergencies.

During the last year an average of four calls a week have been received in West Auckland.

Regional fire manager Brian Butts says the understanding is nothing new for most stations but others may never have responded to critical events before.

"They are now because we're trying to get consistency across the country," he says.

Due to the kinds of emergencies fire crew attend they're required to have unit standard first aid and resuscitation skills and any additional training specific to their environment.

All fire service staff are trained by St John.

They're not trained for first response procedures such as blood loss management or injections but Mr Butts says crew aren't getting called out to inappropriate calls.

Waitemata area commander Denis O'Donoghue says in the past it was recognised they were putting fire officers into situations where they didn't have enough experience.

"We went back to St John's for a higher amount of training and now they're very comfortable with where they are."

Since the agreement was formalised some stations have had an influx of co-response calls, he says.

In the first 16 days of January Waitemata responded to more immediate life-threatening emergencies than Counties Manukau and Auckland City with 29 call outs.

Counties Manukau had 25 and Auckland City had six.

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