10 May 2019

Union calls for improved first aid training regime for firefighters

| Lachlan Roberts
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Firefighters undergo just two days of first aid training every three years. File photo.

The ACT firefighters union is calling for a better first aid training regime for its staff, stating the current first aid training regime is limited and inadequate.

Under the current regime, ACT Fire and Rescue firefighters receive just two days of advanced first aid training every three years, with a couple of refreshers in between.

The ACT’s first aid training regime is significantly less comprehensive when compared with other states, with firefighters in Victoria undergoing a nine-day training regime every 12 months.

ACT United Firefighters Union secretary Greg McConville said the frequency of first aid training needs to double and believes the current regime is simply not adequate for the range of emergencies firefighters dealt with on a daily basis.

Mr McConville believes the number of medical emergencies firefighters attend is on track to increase from 445 in 2017 to 664 by the end of 2019, spurring the need for more comprehensive first aid training.

“The quality of the current first aid training we provide to our frontline firefighters is not much better than the training provided to office workers who occasionally apply a band-aid to a paper cut,” he said.

“It is not enough to deal with serious medical emergencies ranging from car accidents and cardiac arrests to drownings and delivering babies. This is about saving lives and we need to get this right.

“The people of the ACT deserve to be protected by firefighters that have Emergency Medical Response training, that at least approaches that of their colleagues in other states.”

Under the current first aid training regime, firefighters undertaking the training are still on call and can be interrupted by emergency calls.

“We think that when firefighters are undertaking training they should be able to devote their complete time and attention without being called out to fire calls,” Mr McConville said. “They need to be rostered off or moved to training centres for the duration of their training.

“It is difficult to learn about clinical procedures when you are being interrupted.”

Mr McConville said that this lack of training was already a major source of concern and anxiety for firefighters and could potentially be a source of post-traumatic stress illness.

“During medical emergencies, understandably firefighters want to do the best possible job they can to save someone’s life,” he said. “There is an underlying concern among firefighters as to whether they are doing the right thing in some medical emergencies.

“It is a cause of anxiety and can contribute to post-traumatic stress. We currently have a number of firefighters who are not on-duty now because they are on workers’ compensation for that very reason.

“They do not feel they’ve had the emergency medical assistance training to do this at all incidents and this takes a heavy toll on them psychologically.”

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Seeing as how medical emergencies aren’t the core business of the Fire And Rescue Team, how about we put more Paramedics on the road to deal with these situations. After all, they actually know what to do.

This would be a better outcome for both the general public and for the Firies, seeing as medical calls are taking a heavy toll on them psychologically.

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