FIRE AID mobilises emergency services at London conference

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Stephen Twigg MP, Chair, House of Commons International Development Select Committee
Stephen Twigg MP, Chair, House of Commons International Development Select Committee
Etienne Krug, Director of NCD Management & Injury Prevention, WHO
Etienne Krug, Director of NCD Management & Injury Prevention, WHO
Saul Billingsley, Director General, FIA Foundation
Saul Billingsley, Director General, FIA Foundation
Jim Fitzpatrick MP with guests at the House of Commons
Jim Fitzpatrick MP with guests at the House of Commons

London Fire Brigade has hosted FIRE AID’s annual International Development and Humanitarian Aid Conference at their headquarters in Southwark.

FIRE AID is a coalition of UK fire and emergency services which provides ethical, sustainable donations of fire & rescue equipment and training to middle and low income countries in need of assistance. Road crash response is a major element of the coalition’s work. The FIA Foundation is the main donor to the FIRE AID programme.

The event on 22nd October included speakers and guests from the World Health Organization (WHO), the FIA Foundation, the Department for International Development (DFID), the Department for Communities & Local Government (DCLG), the Chief Fire Officers Association (CFOA), representatives from across the UK Fire & Rescue Service, many FIRE AID member charities and other aid organisations, and the Institution of Fire Engineers (IFE) who signed a memorandum of understanding with FIRE AID during the event.

The conference was chaired by FIRE AID Chair Jim Fitzpatrick MP and Deputy Chair Emma MacLennan, Director of the Eastern Alliance for Safe & Sustainable Transport, with opening remarks from London Fire Commissioner Ron Dobson CBE, QFSM. Focusing on the theme of ‘Road Safety and Resilience’ the audience heard presentations from Dr Etienne Krug, Director, Management of Non-Communicable Diseases, Disability, Violence and Injury Prevention at the World Health Organization, who outlined the findings of the latest WHO Global Status Report on Road Safety, and Saul Billingsley, Director General of the FIA Foundation, who provided delegates with a global view of road safety and its devastating impact on global development. He discussed the new Sustainable Development ‘Global Goals’ which include tough targets for road casualty reduction and sustainable mobility for all. FIRE AID members have an important role to play in helping meet these targets – particularly by improving road crash response.

Stephen Twigg MP joined the event in his capacity as Chair of the House of Commons Select Committee on International Development. Many delegates took the opportunity to ask Mr Twigg about DFID’s priorities. He referred to the volunteers involved in projects as a ‘national asset’ and assured participants that he would report back to the Select Committee on FIRE AID’s activities. Mr Twigg felt that the new Global Goals would help greatly with aligning the work of FIRE AID members with that of DFID.

Donations of fire and rescue aid can be ad hoc, uncoordinated and not always accompanied by training or measures to ensure equipment is used properly and effectively. FIRE AID works to ensure that donations are made ethically and sustainably; works with police and emergency services in destination countries to match donations of road crash response equipment with areas of greatest need; and works with local partner organisations and government agencies to make donations part of a sustainable injury reduction and public safety strategy.

A key concern of the group is the emergency response to road traffic collisions which account for 1.3 million deaths annually. Low and middle income countries account for 90% of global deaths but have less than half of the world’s registered vehicles. In Ukraine, for example, 78% of road casualties die at the scene of a crash, compared to less than one-third in the UK. Both fire and rescue training and equipment are inadequate. FIRE AID unites both fire and rescue services and road safety charities by addressing an area often overlooked but absolutely vital to casualty reduction.

Providing a practical example of efforts in this area, Bruce Hoad of Operation Florian and FIRE AID provided an inspiring presentation about collaborative work of FIRE AID members in the Republic of Moldova (see main photo above). He demonstrated the powerful impact that several FIRE AID members are delivering in the country across all 5 pillars of the UN Decade of Action for Road Safety, pointing to road crash incidents in which extrication equipment provided by FIRE AID has saved several lives. Questions to the panel from the audience addressed issues such as funding, vehicle standards, and public transport risk.

Prior to the conference, Jim Fitzpatrick MP hosted a dinner for donors and partners at the House of Commons together with FIRE AID’s patron, Lord Robertson of Port Ellen. As a former firefighter and Road Safety Minister, Jim welcomed guests and spoke passionately of the important role played by UK services and charities, who are the biggest global contributors of humanitarian aid to fire & rescue services. In countries like Tajikistan, where fewer than 11% of road crash victims are taken by ambulance to hospital, FIRE AID members are building capacity in local services to respond effectively to road crashes and save lives. Donations of needed equipment are part of this. Just as valuable is the time donated by UK experts to training local services and building their professional capacity.

To learn more about the work of FIRE AID, visit http://www.fire-aid.org/