London Fire Brigade

Firefighters across London get extra life saving equipment

16 June 2011

Firefighters using first aid equipmentFrom today, every fire engine in London will be equipped with new high-tech first aid equipment, including defibrillators, and firefighters are trained to use the potentially life-saving gear.

The kit will be used when fire crews are the first emergency service on the scene or where firefighters work alongside paramedics at incidents, especially where victims cannot be easily reached. It will mean that casualties, particularly at the scene of a fire, can receive a higher level of first aid quicker, giving them a better chance of survival. Today, the role out of a four year long project, known as Immediate Emergency Care (IEC), will be completed when fire stations in Waltham Forest receive the first aid equipment and training to use the kit.

The London Fire Brigade worked closely in partnership with the London Ambulance Service (LAS) to develop the training for firefighters. Fire crews are now able to provide emergency treatment to casualties to the exacting standards prescribed by the LAS. This partnership working has been taken as the national model which other fire and rescue services are following.

As part of the arrangement, the LAS also replace particular consumable items of equipment used within the packs, which has greatly cut the cost of the Brigade’s first aid equipment.

Chairman of London Fire Authority’s Community Safety Committee, Cllr Susan Hall said:

“This is another example of the London Fire Brigade working to make Londoners safer. Following the 7/7 bombings, the emergency services were keen to learn how things could be done differently. We seized the initiative to improve our first aid capabilities by working with London Ambulance Service’s experts, introducing equipment and first aid training that are the envy of Fire Brigades across the country.”  

Prior to 7 July 2005 bombings the London Fire Brigade had already started reviewing its first aid equipment, procedures and training. In 2007 it began rolling out IEC on a borough by borough basis. Areas were prioritised based on risk and number of injuries sustained in fires and incidents like road traffic collisions.

Ambulance Operations Manager Paul Gates said:

“Our staff are saving more patients who suffer cardiac arrests and stop breathing than ever before, but in these situations every second is vital so having additional lifesaving equipment available on London Fire Brigade vehicles can only benefit patients. 

“Performing basic life support while we’re on the way can double a person’s chance of survival, and being able to use a defibrillator to restart their heart can further increase their chances by more than a third. 

“These machines have already been used to help save lives at railway stations, airports and in other public places, so we know there are some real potential benefits for both London Fire Brigade staff and members of the public.”

The IEC equipment includes defibrillators for cardiac arrest attack victims, manual suction devices to clear blocked airways, stiff-neck collars, improved wound dressings and airway adjuncts, which help to maintain a clear airway in unconscious patients.

Notes to editors:

Since 2007 the defibrillator has been used on 32 occasions and firefighters have used oxygen equipment at over 400 incidents.

On average the first fire engine to an incident arrives in 5 minutes and 32 seconds. The second fire engine to an incident arrives in six minutes and 46 seconds.

The Brigade has 187 defibrillators/ IEC Packs in service.

The IEC training for station-based operational staff has replaced the Health & Safety First Aid at Work course that was previously delivered. The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) has accepted that the Brigade’s IEC course incorporates and exceeds the requirements of the First Aid at Work Regulations; the first time that such acceptance has been provided to any UK Fire & Rescue Service.

Of all the injuries the Brigade sees at incidents;

  • 44 per cent are smoke inhalation
  • 22 per cent are trauma
  • 7 per cent are burns
  • 6 per cent are or induce shock
  • 3 per cent are cardiac arrest victims