6 Rescue
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Specialist Rescue

We recognise that the White Paper and, indeed, society’s expectations place a major new set of roles on the fire service. We will be establishing a dedicated rescue team to ensure we can meet these expectations in a professional and highly competent manner. This new role brings with it a range of financial issues in terms of staffing and equipping such a team and our financial plans will deal in detail with how we intend to fund this new range of responsibilities.

As and when the legislative framework allows, we would wish to take a more proactive approach to preventing life loss and injuries from those non-fire emergencies where we can make a real difference.

High Access Training

High access rope rescue training will continue to be provided to operational personnel to ensure the Service can deal with rescues from places where access is restricted or difficult. Further training will be provided to selected personnel to allow techniques that are more advanced to be employed.

Rescues from Water

Following Government acceptance of a study into the emergency arrangements for the River Thames in London, a search and rescue organisation for that river was established in January 2002. Flowing from the successful implementation of that organisation was a methodology for assessing the adequacy of search and rescue in most marine environments, particularly major estuaries, rivers and other waterways. This methodology has been developed into a working risk assessment tool which is being used to risk assess the River Mersey.

The main aims of the risk assessment will be to recommend rescue resources on and around the tidal River Mersey to meet required response criteria and to ensure full integration of all resources required for search and rescue.

The work on this is being overseen by a steering group with representatives from the Maritime & Coastguard Agency, the Royal National Lifeboat Institute, Liverpool City Council, the Liverpool Port Authority, Merseyside Police and Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service.

The outcome of this risk assessment process will inform future response arrangements to the tidal River Mersey.

Water rescue training will be provided to enable Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service to work safely on or near water during emergencies and to enable the Service to rescue firefighters, fellow emergency workers, and members of the public in difficulty in inland water situations.

Urban Search and Rescue Equipment

Training in urban search and rescue will be expanded. The Service will augment its current rescue equipment with additional equipment. Although much of this will be provided by central government, as is the case with mass decontamination, additional equipment will be provided by Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service where appropriate. This area of rescue may apply to the wide range of underground risk across Merseyside, however, there are no proposals to undertake cave or mountain rescue, as no such risk has been identified.

Merseyside Resilience

In parallel to the development of this plan, we have been looking over the last year at how we can improve Merseyside’s resilience by developing our capacity to respond to and work with other agencies to cope with a variety of different emergencies, including environmental disasters and terrorist attacks which could involve a risk of fire.

The protection of the communities and environment of Merseyside is at the heart of Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service core function. It carries out this role in many different ways described elsewhere in this document. Since the events of September 11th 2001, one of the additional areas of responsibility is that of “New Dimensions” which compliments the already well established roles of operational planning and emergency planning. New Dimensions was launched following the attack on the World Trade Centre in New York. It set out to review the Fire and Rescue Service nationally (including Merseyside) for its preparedness against a potential terrorist threat.

The programme is led by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM) and has identified work streams that will ensure that all Fire and Rescue Services are sufficiently equipped and trained to respond and deal effectively with major Chemical, Biological, Radiological and conventional terrorist incidents not only within their own county, but also on a regional and national scale.

Britain has been used to the changing nature of the terrorist threat and has lived with a heightened state, for a number of years. In this new environment we must remain vigilant to new types of threat. Recent attacks have been on the least well protected targets. The principal threat at present comes from International Terrorism, in particular extremist groups, who have a much broader agenda and will use whatever means necessary to deliver their method of attack.

We are playing a role at regional and national levels, in the preparation for a response to a terrorist attack, should one occur. More importantly we are ensuring that National Response Plans are fully embedded within our own contingency plans, which have been prepared for such incidents to ensure the protection of the communities of Merseyside.

A New Dimensions Assistant Planner has been allocated to the project financed by the ODPM and works full time on matters of regional and national resilience. He works within the Community Protection Department, which ensures issues emanating from the ODPM are immediately captured by officers of this Service and are acted on. The Community Protection Manager responsible for the Department also spends a considerable amount of his time working on resilience and contingency planning and assessing the impact on the Service of the New Dimensions work streams.

In common with all other Fire and Rescue Services Merseyside has, in partnership with the Department of Health, accepted responsibility for the management of Public Mass Decontamination in the event of a Chemical, Biological or Radiological attack.

Following a thorough assessment of the potential risk, a new system of decontamination has been employed. To meet the needs of this system money was made available by Government, to purchase some of the best equipment available in the world. This includes portable shower units and specialist protective clothing.

We are also introducing additional vehicles to help us to perform this role. These vehicles will be an integral part of our capability to provide assistance at a range of emergencies (for example, they will also improve our ability to respond to a major incident at an airport or on the railways) and will be available for use at any incident where they can make a contribution. They will not be kept in storage only to be brought out if and when a major incident happens.

The improvements in public safety which these vehicles and equipment will provide should be made as soon as possible. We are, therefore, bringing them into service as soon as the vehicles and equipment are available and our crews have been trained in their safe use, rather than delaying until we have finalised the rest of this draft plan.

Merseyside officers continue to be involved extensively with the multi agency groups dealing with New Dimensions issues, along with the associated resilience and contingency planning necessary to support and underpin those issues.

Non Fire Emergencies (Special Services)

The Fire Services Act 1947 and the Local Government Act 1972 give fire authorities the necessary legislative power to undertake special services work. Section 3, subsection (e) of the Fire Services Act 1947 empowers fire authorities to employ the fire services maintained by them, or to use any equipment so maintained, for purposes other than firefighting and if the fire authority sees fit, to make such charge as they may determine for such services. These services, which are diverse in nature, are known as “special services”. Examples of special services are given below. The current legislation is discretionary in nature and fire authorities do not have to respond to special service calls. However, the Government have recognised that as the fire service nationally respond to some 180,000 non-fire incidents each year, there is a need to put this work on a statutory footing and the White Paper “Our Fire and Rescue Service” proposes legislation to do this. It is noted that no additional funding has been promised by the Government for these additional statutory duties.

It is the current policy of Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service to respond to special service incidents. At present there are no set response times. We aim to establish response standards to life threatening non fire emergencies, after a full analysis of incident attendances has been concluded.

An agreement already exists with Knowsley Housing Trust that we will not respond to certain non fire incidents (ie. flooding and people confined in lifts). We look to extend this initiative to further areas next year.

Special service calls are currently classified as:

Humanitarian (Rescue Role)

This includes incidents where life is at risk or members of the public are suffering or could suffer undue pain or discomfort. Examples might include persons trapped, first aid, sporting accidents, aircraft accidents, attempted suicides, removal of items causing distress. It is the policy of Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service not to charge for attendance at humanitarian special service incidents.

Public Interest

This class includes incidents where members of the public are suffering, or could suffer, from personal distress. It will also include incidents where not to render assistance would lead to a deterioration of circumstances and consequently threaten life or cause distress to members of the public. Examples might include Road Traffic Accidents (not persons trapped), animal rescue, standing by or precautionary action, assisting police, isolation of energy source, investigations or provision of advice and inspections. Under normal circumstances requests for assistance from other emergency services, charitable institutions and religious establishments are classed as public interest. It is the policy of Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service not to charge for attendance at public interest special service incidents.


This class includes incidents best described as non emergency and where, under normal circumstances, a private contractor could be employed to carry out the work required. Examples might include flooding, removal of water, spillages, isolation of water supply, filling of pools, making safe, lift release and effecting entry. It is the policy of Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service to charge for attendance at such special service incidents.

The above categories will be reviewed, in light of the promised legislation.

Co-Responder Scheme (Helping people who are having a heart attack)

Sudden Cardiac Arrest often strikes otherwise fit people in their 40s-50s and is currently fatal in all but 5% of cases. Whilst many will associate chest pain as the first sign of heart attack in around 30% of cases the first indication of the problem is that the victim suffers a sudden cardiac arrest.

In the UK today around 150,000 people die of sudden cardiac arrest annually, many within their homes and local communities and long before an ambulance can reach them. However, this need not be the case as 85% of these sudden deaths are potentially avoidable using a defibrillator if applied quickly. These devices are used to ‘re-boot’ the heart muscle into effective action with an electric shock.

In the United States defibrillation has long been a part of a firefighter’s role with many lives having been saved in the communities local to the fire stations.

The Government wants to see co-responder partnerships develop and implemented more widely. We intend to enter into a partnership arrangement with the Heart of Mersey organisation and Mersey Regional Ambulance Service with the aim of reducing the effects of coronary disease in Merseyside, in line with government targets. Under these arrangements, firefighters, when they are first on the scene at an emergency, are trained and able to use basic life support skills including the use of automated defibrillators, to keep casualties alive until professional medical assistance arrives. Evidence and experience worldwide is that early defibrillation is safe, effective and achievable by minimally trained individuals.

Whilst there is understandable concern over some issues on the use of early defibrillation by non-medical/paramedical staff, this is a logical extension of current first aid practices. Training for firefighters, who are already competent in cardiac pulmonary resuscitation (CPR), will be built into first aid training regimes.

Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service intends to pilot the provision of defibrillators on some rescue pumps as a trial in 2004/05. Firefighters will be appropriately trained in their use. If a rescue pump arrives at an incident where a person has suffered a cardiac arrest before an ambulance, firefighters will use the defibrillator in the appropriate manner, whilst awaiting the attendance of the Ambulance Service. The pilot will be closely monitored by both the Ambulance Service and ourselves throughout the trial to ensure it is achieving its objectives. At the end of the twelve month period, the scheme will be jointly evaluated to see whether it should continue and, if appropriate, be extended.

We will also examine ways in which the local fire station can act as a community resource in wider areas such as:

  • fitness opportunities for targeted groups
  • health surveillance opportunities with the fire station as a “road show” venue
  • opportunities for diet and lifestyle advice

These areas would be explored as part of our support of the wider health agenda to reduce coronary heart disease across Merseyside.

©Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service