Fire officers could act as first responders in cases where an ambulance is not available, according to Patrick Fleming, chairperson of the Chief Fire Officers Association and head of the service in Dublin.
Mr Fleming said while additional training might be required, it would provide some relief for paramedics.
“It’s trying to get maximum use from the existing public services,” he said, “particularly the fire services who are experienced in responding to emergencies and don’t panic. I think that could be very valuable, particularly in rural areas.”
In an address to the CFOA’s annual conference in Tullamore yesterday, he also called on the Government to invest more in fire services.
Mr Fleming said there was very little financing available at local level to support a focused community fire safety strategy. “Current expenditure by local authorities on fire and rescue services is €267m per annum. Proper station facilities are essential for maintaining the delivery of a fire service. Fire appliances are the workhorses of the services and it is regrettable that there has been no fleet capital funding provided in recent years.
“The provision of such funding would allow fire and rescue services to break out of their traditional roles and create added social value to local communities by proactively engaging with the broader social agenda and working with partner agencies,” he said.
Mr Fleming said he was trying to stimulate a debate on the matter. “The ambulance service is under pressure and the fire service could provide support, subject to proper governance.”
He said the Danish fire service, which was represented at the conference, had gone through major changes recently and now provides an emergency medical service in addition to their traditional role.
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