FIRE AID brings vital post-crash support to Eastern Europe

Main Image
The Vice Rector of Lviv University and representatives of EASST and Road Safety Support Foundation (Ukraine).
The Vice Rector of Lviv University and representatives of EASST and Road Safety Support Foundation (Ukraine).
University firefighter trainees and the police conduct an interactive exercise to discuss how multiple agencies can work together to prioritise the casualty.
University firefighter trainees and the police conduct an interactive exercise to discuss how multiple agencies can work together to prioritise the casualty.
Focusing on RTC Response.
Focusing on RTC Response.
At the training centre in the north of Moldova in Balti.
At the training centre in the north of Moldova in Balti.
The 2016 convoy.
The 2016 convoy.
Ambassador Batson hands over keys to the fire appliances.
Ambassador Batson hands over keys to the fire appliances.
Practical rescue exercise with Station Manager Jason Sharp (blue helmet) and FSFOR Russian member Denis Sebentsov (white coat) interpreting.
Practical rescue exercise with Station Manager Jason Sharp (blue helmet) and FSFOR Russian member Denis Sebentsov (white coat) interpreting.

FIRE AID unites both fire and rescue services and road safety charities in support of the UN Decade of Action on Road Safety that seeks to save 5 million lives during 2011-2020. In 2016 it carried out a number of successful road safety missions and will continue to do so, playing a vital role in providing lifesaving equipment and training in countries that need it most. FIRE AID is funded by the FIA Foundation through its partner EASST.

There is an urgent need for action in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. 90% of the world's fatalities on the roads occur in low- and middle-income countries, even though these countries have approximately half of the world's vehicles. Many of these countries are not equipped with the resources or knowledge required to save victims of road crashes resulting in limited post-crash response and ultimately leading to life changing injuries and too often fatalities.

In Ukraine, for example, 78% of road casualties die at the scene of a crash, compared to less than one-third in the UK. A factor contributing to this is the lack of road crash response equipment and training. Emergency response and post-crash care - pillar 5 of the Decade of Action Global Plan - is a key concern of FIRE AID, an association of UK charities and services with a mutual interest in providing ethical and sustainable donations of fire and rescue aid and training to those in need of such assistance.

This year, Lviv University of Life Safety in Ukraine invited EASST (a founding member of FIRE AID) and its local partner organisation Road Safety Support Foundation (RSSF) of Ukraine to hold a series of events aimed at encouraging partnership working among agencies – police, fire and ambulance service, local authorities and the RSSF – to reduce the high number of road deaths and injuries. Medical items were donated along with training and firefighting PPE. At a roundtable event attended by the various agencies, the emphasis was put on the importance of joint working in order to improve emergency response and reduce casualty figures.–. Following discussions, a draft action plan was devised by the participants detailing the responsibilities of each agency and how they can work together. To demonstrate how partnerships are vital to casualty reduction, an interactive scenario took place with crews showing how they would respond to an RTC. Police attending the event said it was the first time such an activity had taken place. First aid training was also delivered as well as presentation and discussion of trauma care in the UK, particularly at the scene of an RTC.

Also focusing on the importance of partnership working is Operation Florian (a founding member of FIRE AID) who have been delivering aid to Macedonia for 9 years. In the latest phase of their work, Florian delivered joint training for the first time to police, fire and ambulance personnel. Daily evaluation of the impact of the workshops showed the benefits of working in partnership at road traffic crash scenes. This knowledge had been put to the test the very next day at the scene of a road traffic crash involving a lorry. The driver was rescued in a multi-agency response and the police, ambulance and fire officers who were at the scene acknowledged that they were able to intervene effectively thanks to the training they had just received by Operation Florian. 

In addition to training, FIRE AID facilitates the donation of thousands of items of equipment from fire appliances to medical kit. It was formed in 2012 by a group of like-minded organisations who have been operating for many years, successfully donating equipment, training and expertise to over 30 countries. 

In May 2016 Operation Florian also completed a mission to the Republic of Moldova where fire and rescue capacity is limited and where the road fatality rate is up third in Europe. Four fire appliances from East Sussex FRS and West Sussex FRS equipped with RTC rescue tools from South Yorkshire FRS and lifesaving equipment from other UK fire rescue services were donated to the Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Situation Services (CPESS) of Moldova. After travelling some 1,600 miles through 8 countries a team of 12 RTC and trauma instructors split to provide training at venues in the north and south of the country. The two-week training period covered instruction in trauma care, casualty approach to road traffic collisions, driver training, and pumps and ladder operations. Firefighters were joined by colleagues from the police and ambulance services for joint training, multi-agency cooperation and procedures, RTC scene management and first aid. By the end of the mission some 60 Moldovan personnel had received training and the team also visited primary and secondary schools to share fire and road safety information and education.

FIRE AID member the UK Rescue Organisation also facilitated the Moldovan Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Situation Service (CPESS) with the holding of their second national rescue challenge with 8 teams competing in an RTC extrication challenge. Several FIRE AID members have been working in Moldova to improve the Service’s ability to respond to RTCs. In 2015, 18 casualties in Comrat and 19 in Orhei were rescued during road traffic collisions with crews using the UK-donated vehicles, equipment and training. Further lives are being saved in other locations where donations have been made. 

In September 2016, a FIRE AID team returned to Tajikistan for the third time to continue their cooperation with the emergency services. Road traffic deaths in Tajikistan are recorded at 18.8 per 100,000 population, according to WHO statistics (2013), a rise from 18.1 in 2010 and a rate that is six times that of the UK even though the country has a smaller fleet. The Ministry of Internal Affairs in Tajikistan reports a further increase in 2014 with every fifth person injured reported as a child or teenager. The significant lack of training and equipment to respond effectively contributes to the high road fatalities.

The team included representatives from UK charities Staffordshire Emergency Services Humanitarian Aid Association (SESHAA) and Eastern Alliance for Safe and Sustainable Transport (EASST) who delivered life-saving extrication equipment, firefighting PPE, and other rescue items to fire services in the capital Dushanbe and to the main fire station in the town of Khorog in the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region in cooperation with FOCUS Humanitarian Assistance (an affiliate of the Agha Khan Development Network), EASST partner Young Generation of Tajikistan, and sponsored by the UK Embassy in Tajikistan. The equipment was being used for the first time by firefighters in Dushanbe for rescuing casualties that would usually be trapped in their vehicles. Training took place at the Dushanbe Fire Service Training Centre and was visited by UK Ambassador Hugh Philpott who saw first-hand the quality of the training delivered and the impact of the donations. 

From Dushanbe the team drove to Khorog, a town in the Pamir Mountains of Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region to provide the same training in post-crash response and first aid to fire fighters and personnel of the Committee of Emergency Situations as well as equipment for the main fire station of the region. En route to Khorog, on the Pamir highway – the second highest international highway in the World and often referred to as the “road from hell”, the team experienced the dangers of the road. 

Humanitarian aid workers working in this region providing essential aid to the area face high risks of natural disasters, terrorism and crime but according to Paul Jansen, Executive Director of Fleet Forum, “Road traffic accidents are the number one killer of aid workers.” Providing essential equipment for effective post-crash response has been the aim of the team but preventing road crashes is also a key priority and the team are working with EASST’s local road safety partner Young Generation Tajikistan to prevent road traffic collisions in this high risk region.

In Russia road traffic fatalities claim an estimated 26,500 lives a year, of which 52% are vulnerable road users, mostly pedestrians and young makes are at particularly high risk. FIRE AID founding members, Fire Safety Friends of Russia and UK Rescue Organisation, shared UK RTC and Trauma Care Practice with Arkhangelsk Emergency Services in August 2016. They introduced the Arkhangelsk Region Rescue Service Instructors to the latest casualty extrication techniques used in the UK. Work during the five days was devoted to updating the Arkhangelsk Region Emergency Services with current UK practice and procedures for rescuing persons trapped in road vehicles and providing initial trauma care. This involved classroom work on the issues associated with the latest generation of cars including hybrid, as well as several days of practical exercises. The Russian instructors were not only pleased with the updates but also impressed with the method of instruction used, which they have now adopted for delivering training themselves.

Thanks to the dedication and commitment of FIRE AID and its members and partnerships, countries around the world are being given the means and training to save lives on their roads. The task remains huge and FIRE AID will continue its work but it has so far contributed to bringing several nations a little closer to achieving the goals of the Decade of Action.