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Extended emergency service take two

A rethink of my previous idea
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Here's a less offensive version of last night's idea.
A couple of days ago, there was a serious house fire in which all but one member of a family died. The fire brigade had been called but failed to reach them in time. In the meantime, the police prevented the neighbours from attempting to rescue the victims because of the risk to themselves - that is, their judgement was that more people were likely be killed as a result of amateurs attempting a rescue than otherwise. The mainstream media's presentation of this is critical of the police, but i can see the argument that, however willing someone might be to attempt such a rescue, they might well die, leading to more suffering. At the same time, though police are trained in First Aid and presumably a number of other skills not part of their core duties, they are not professional fire fighters or paramedics, so they're probably no more capable of successfully rescuing people from fires than the general public.
Whereas this seems to be true, police officers in some places do carry defibrillators and are trained to use them. In that respect, their jobs now overlap those of paramedics more than before. Similarly, there was a time when paramedics were basically ambulance driving first aiders. My suggestion is therefore this, and i am serious about it - the other idea was flippant, forget it. I propose that the emergency services overlap more than they currently do, particularly the police since they are generally at large more than the others. Police officers should have more facilities to perform the duties of paramedics and fire fighters, both through their training and in the equipment they use. For example, the current uniforms could be replaced by enclosable suits with their own oxygen supply which can deal with high temperatures and are waterproof, so they can actually help the victims in this sort of situation. They can to some extent rescue people from burning buildings, fish them out of deep water without so much risk to their own lives, and they can offer oxygen to heart attack victims just with the fairly straightforward facilities and training i've suggested.
nineteenthly, Mar 31 2009

The other one Anti-litigious_20mu...claved_20microstate
A suggested alternative to this [nineteenthly, Apr 02 2009]

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       This is the old argument of specialists vs generalists. I'm not sure about giving a policeperson more kit and widening their duty is the best solution. I don't think you can expect to train all the police in firefighting, nor all the firefighters in policing. To go down that road (even somewhat), I suspect, is to dilute their specialist existence and increase costs all over the system. I guess I'm saying I don't know how much use and how costly basic firefighting skills would be when applied to an entire police force...   

       I think that the solution is to have the right amount of specialists in the right place at the right time, tailored to the specific needs of the community. The case you mention is sad and tragic example where the resources didn't meet the needs.
Jinbish, Mar 31 2009
  

       Thanks for all that, [Jinbish]. The situation is that many police do in fact now carry defibrillators and are trained in their use. That extension of role already exists. Right now, it's in the direction of paramedics. Is it completely unfeasible for it to go in the direction of other emergency services? If a police officer is capable of becoming competent enough to restart a heart and do CPR, might there not be certain things they could do in the direction of firefighting, cutting people out of wrecked vehicles or fishing attempted suicides out of rivers? It might even be a question of individual officers specialising, or maybe having placements in other services. Would that be more expensive?
I find this has all become rather imponderable.
nineteenthly, Mar 31 2009
  

       Do you know which police staff are trained in defribulation? If, for example, it was persons that would be at a specific location or event then that would make sense. No point having firefighters sitting around at the Glastonbury, for wont of a better example, when the stationed police could have the basic first-aid and CPR training (with defib).   

       The other side of the coin is that you wouldn't train every constable and fit every car out with a portable defib machine. That would be an expensive lesson in redundancy.   

       The paramedic example is a distraction, I feel, they are health-related personnel and it makes perfect sense that they will be driving to a scene of distress (and may have to administer immediate treatment).   

       Where is this middle ground for firefighting? Can you suggest which police staff should be have pyro-training? If it is just a blanket idea where all police are trained in firefighting then why not just bolster the fire service with further staff & equipment?
Jinbish, Mar 31 2009
  

       Well, for a start the Port of Dover and Kent Constabulary have them (thanks Google). I think it's fairly general. They're also in certain other places not associated with the police. The equipment costs around fifty quid, not sure about the training, and is kept in police cars. Two Port of Dover cars have been fitted with them. I don't know how big that constabulary is, but i would expect it to be specialised and small, rather like the British Transport Police but even more so. I'm going to have to do some Googling there.
The problem i have here is that whereas i have medical knowledge, though not in emergency medicine, i know less about extinguishing fires, which is why i can't say very much.
Concerning which police, i suppose i would say where the risk of fires which are initially manageable is high, so i'm thinking maybe motorways, areas where riots are likely and places where people are likely to attempt to set fire to their neighbours houses. In fact, i can think of a really specific example where it would help. I have a nephew whose house was in constant danger of being firebombed before his family moved. Police trained in firefighting on a limited scale would be useful in that area.
nineteenthly, Mar 31 2009
  

       [Bigsleep], i agree. I have another idea on the backburner about that, but i've gone with this one for the time being. In a way, this could be construed as an argument for incredibly boring but accurate action movies. If only everything was like Apollo Thirteen.
Yes, why should rescue attempts be prevented? Maybe i should just post my other idea (not the crap superhero one).
nineteenthly, Mar 31 2009
  

       Modern AEDs (Automatic, External Difribulators) require essentially no training for use. They include very simple instructions, voice warning systems, and make the decision on wether or not a shock is required on their own. Adding one to a police car, with plenty of load carrying capacity is not a big jump. Likewise, a two day training course in basic first aid is a fairly logical step.

  

       The extensive training required by firefighters, however, is another story.

  

       In addition, there is a reason why firefighters arrive as teams. The most experienced usually stays outside the fire, judging conditions and safety requirements. The remainder go in and provide support and protection for each other.

  

       One or two police officers are not going to be able to do this, and are going to put themselves at signififcant risk in the process. (Note that in the US, most police cars do carry a fire extinguisher for very minor fires, again simple training, minimal additional risk).
MechE, Mar 31 2009
  

       // Well, for a start the Port of Dover and Kent Constabulary have them //   

       I would hope these are AED's and not defibrillators. While an AED can be used with little to no training, a defibrillator in the hands of someone without advanced life support training AND familiarity with one through regular use is a terrifying thought.   

       Another point to consider is that basic CPR skills decline from within the first few weeks after training. After a year they're considered by some to be inadequate.
I would think it fair to assume there'd be a similar decline in any skills acquired in firefighting, necessitating regular refresher courses.
Whereas a good argument could be made for police staff being trained in basic CPR, and carrying an AED, on a statistical basis I don't think one could justify the time, risk or expense involved in firefighting or any other form of rescue training for the average policeman.
shudderprose, Mar 31 2009
  

       Is it possible, then, to make firefighting or something similar "idiot-proof" in the same way as a defibrillator could be? If they could be designed that way, what about other things? The problem there is that this sort of becomes "no idea" if i suggest that.
[Bigsleep], take my word for it, it was crap, and not in a good way.
nineteenthly, Mar 31 2009
  

       //There is something soul crushing about formalism over enthusiasm\\ That is a great quote. It may well be your ticket to eternity [bigsleep].   

       Maybe everybody that wants to be an ambulance person, firefighter, or policier should get a year of basic helping society training.   

       Then firefighters and ambulance persons could get the right to make arrests.   

       It would be impractical to send out a firefighters truck for every call for the police but some more overlapping and a little added equipment would do a lot of good. It would also be costeffective because if one sevice can do more, a trip by the other service can be avoided.   

       We have a growing problem in the Netherlands of ambulance persons and firefighters getting verbal abuse, threats and being beaten at the scene. They should have something to make them more capable of protecting themselves and stopping this kind of behaviour. Right now a police car rides with the ambulance in many places wich is very expensive.
zeno, Apr 01 2009
  

       [Zeno], the reverse crossover had also occurred to me - give paramedics greater powers of arrest and the like - but i think that would make them less trusted and therefore less likely to be helpful. If a paramedic has the power to arrest someone who's OD'd on illegal recreational substances and maybe also do something like test their blood and use it as evidence, i can imagine people dying as a result of mistrust.
This raises two questions in my mind. One is, how much power legally do the police have in that situation? Does the prospect of a police car turning up put people off 'phoning for an ambulance? Having said that, i do recognise the needs of the paramedics. The other is, how admissible are data acquired in medical emergencies as evidence? Is the situation a propos de confidentiality the same as in those of less urgent medical situations?
nineteenthly, Apr 01 2009
  

       I do not believe it is a crime to have taken drugs. To sell drugs, yes, to own drugs, yes, to take it, possibly. But getting arrested for od? Unlikely. Never heard of it in my country nor have I seen it in any of the american shows I watch.   

       And it is a new idea you came up with and if implemented problems will arise but on the whole I think we would be better off.
zeno, Apr 01 2009
  

       The reason the police were preventing people from putting their lives at risk to try and save the victims (I'd be one of the people trying to get in probably) is that if something does happen to the wannabe heros, as the responsible person on the scene, they're gonna be liable, leading to 'they let my little Johnny go into that burning house and he never came out' cases.   

       As for the 'universal emergency service team' think of the military... the army, although having links with aircraft and boats, sticks to tanks, artillery and infantry, what they're good at. The navy stick to the sea (although with some planes and land vehicles). The SAS/navy seals are a different matter, and you're not gonna get all emergency services trained up to that level (albeit in a different area).   

       You wouldn't expect an artilleryman to fly a harrier or a fighter pilot to drive a tank. They may have some overlapping skills (first aid, basic firearms), but you wouldn't expect a foot soldier to go top-gun by giving them the manual for a B-52 and the keys, someone's gonna get hurt!
Skrewloose, Apr 01 2009
  

       //getting arrested for od? //
happens in the military all the time: "self inflicted injuries" is the generic too-hungover-to-work charge.
FlyingToaster, Apr 01 2009
  

       [Skrewloose], they would indeed be liable, hence my other idea, which i'll link to in a minute. It's also possible that the death of people who have attempted to rescue others would be worse, which is a utilitarian point, but a family member who died heroically could be seen as a positive role model, so their value to others is not lost.
I also considered the military. Here, and presumably elsewhere, the military sometimes have this sort of role, for instance they have acted as firefighters here when the fire brigade are on strike. Go too far with that, though and you get a military junta, and people get arrested for self-inflicted injuries.
nineteenthly, Apr 02 2009
  

       Replace their truncheons/nightsticks with dual-purpose oxygen tank/truncheons.

//many police do in fact now carry defibrillators and are trained in their use//
You could probably train a monkey to use a modern defibrillator (AED).
Perhaps that's what we need - rescue Barbary apes.

[EDIT]Further thought - invented by the French. Sapeur Pompiers fulfil paramedic duties, and even the fearsome CRS do beach lifeguard duty.
coprocephalous, Apr 02 2009
  

       So yes, it can be done to some extent. However, to play Devil's advocate, when it is done, is it for populist reasons or does it actually work well?
nineteenthly, Apr 02 2009
  

       Interestingly, the UK's adoption of the European Working Time Directive (which limits the number of hours per week you're allowed to work) will effectively abolish volunteer fire departments in rural areas. The French have a better strategy on this sort of regulation, which is to enthusiastically sign up and then ignore it, but we'll probably implement it to the letter, like we usually do.
hippo, Apr 02 2009
  

       //is it for populist reasons //
Are you serious?
Have you ever seen the average CRS trooper at work?
Would you /want/ that giving you or your loved-ones CPR?

Having seen first-hand the CRS in action in Paris, I can only assume the lifeguards are there to scare people into not going into the sea in the first place.
coprocephalous, Apr 02 2009
  

       OK, i take your point, i was thinking of AEDs more than that.
nineteenthly, Apr 02 2009
  

       As far as I'm aware, only the Highland and Islands Fire and Rescue Service operate volunteer crews in the UK. They are trained to a much lesser standard than whole-time or retained crews and aren't permitted to wear BA so tend not to tackle house fires.   

       The key issue with the house fire is not making things worse by opening doors inappropriately, avoiding getting yourself killed though over exposure to heat/smoke/lack of oxygen, not getting lost and not falling through dangerous structures. Even putting water on a house fire can reduce the survivability as a room full of hot dry air gets converted to one with a lot more hot steam which causes damage to humans more easily. It's the knowledge that is the critical factor, not the nice kit, though that enables skilled personnel to deliver the interventions.   

       There are similar issues with RTCs and the police cutting people out of vehicles. The combined spreader cutters are ok but not as good as the dedicated ones so each police car might have to carry both sets plus the hydraulic power pack. The standard police uniform is no good for working within a car whilst cutting and they'd need extra protective head gear too. If someone is that badly entrapped that they need to be cut out, there's not much that 'first aid' interventions could do that wouldn't be better served by waiting and the police managing the scene effectively so that the paramedics and fire service can do their tasks effectively and safely.
oneoffdave, Apr 02 2009
  

       The first duty of a police officer is to preserve life. If the only way he/she can do that at an incident is to prevent people rushing into extremely dangerous situations when their judgement may be impaired through emotion or other issues then that's what he/she has to do.   

       Snatch rescues of people in burning properties by non-protected individuals are generally only successful where the location of the casualty is clear, the house isn't well involved and the rescuer knows the relevant lay out of the property very well.
oneoffdave, Apr 02 2009
  

       //As far as I'm aware, only the Highland and Islands Fire and Rescue Service operate volunteer crews in the UK//
I can certainly attest that the H&IFB does have volunteer crews and that they are trained to a lesser standard: one fortunately victimless housefire in my mum's village resulted in a completely gutted house because the crew, made up of villagers, each nursing his own delicate and precious web of grudges and slights, had a fundamental disagreement about which hydrant the hose should be connected to. Anyway. As you were.
calum, Apr 02 2009
  

       Judge Dredd, from the pages of 2000AD, published the idea of police officers having their own oxygen supply back in the 70s. A feature on the top of their helmet came down and doubled as a breathing mask.   

       Fortunately each Judge was fully trained as a vertiable action hero, fully capable of saving civillians from fire and rescuing both cats & aliens from trees.
Aristotle, Apr 02 2009
  

       Hello again, [calum]. That sounds like an argument for some kind of command structure rather than against more training. That would exist in the case of the police.
[Oneoffdave], thanks for the information. That's exactly the kind of thing i wanted to know. And [Aristotle], i have to admit that the image of Judge Dredd has been flitting in and out of my mind as i've been mulling these issues over.
nineteenthly, Apr 02 2009
  

       In the situtation mentioned (a police officer stopping a person from entering a burning building), I'm not sure that that is within the primary charter of Police officers, ie: while obviously the right thing to do, the officer could (and perhaps should) be charged with whatever corresponds to "obstructing a person" and let a Judge do the judging... but who lays the charge ? and would the department have come under fire from the media and been subject to a (frivolous?) lawsuit if he hadn't ? ("they just stood there and let poor Mabel wander in to the fire...")   

       However what you're suggesting in this post may be an overloading of the Police function: despite the fact that the Officer was "policing", he/she might not have been "Policing" so to speak.   

       To use a Public Transit example (which I often do since I researched stuff for a report awhile back), the Driver who stops his vehicle and goes to help somebody by the side of the road then stays until an ambulance arrives is obviously performing a function that anybody should, *however* he should also be subject to an internal charge of basically taking a coffee-break while on duty.... but do you want to be the Inspector that writes him up for that ?
FlyingToaster, Apr 02 2009
  

       [FlyingToaster], i think there's a converse point to that too. Is the police officer actually then protecting the have-a-go hero from danger as a private citizen? Maybe they're not performing their duty as a police officer but as a member of the public.
nineteenthly, Apr 02 2009
  

       Cops get function-overloaded because they're the most pervasive element at any given time, ie: in a given section of a city you might have 10 patrolling & (potentially manned)standby police vehicles yet only 2 firetrucks.   

       This gives them one of the basic requirements to be good "point men" for the other services, ie: they're most likely to be at the scene first.   

       IMnsHO you're wanting something that would change the Department from "Police" to "Public Safety and Law Enforcement". This would also require that its members receive not only the basic training in first-aid and how-to-use a fire-extinguisher that everybody should have, but require them to have recognizeable skills and certification in "Situational 'Triage'": to be able to make judgements at the scene as to (generally) what level of response is required not only from the Police, but also from Medical, Fire, Utility (downed power-lines, backed up stormdrains), Child Protective Services, etc.; heck you might even want them versed in when and how to involve the local Clergy.   

       This is far removed from Law Enforcement, but it is a viable alternative career path that could include same.
FlyingToaster, Apr 02 2009
  

       //Maybe they're not performing their duty as a police officer but as a member of the public.//
That was my point in the previous previous anno.... do you charge an officer with kidnapping(?) or whatever, does the police services bureau make an internal charge of "disgracing the uniform", and if it reaches civil court do they then take into consideration the fact that the officer is carrying subduing equipment (billyclub, firearm, handcuffs), etc. etc. etc.
  

       If it's a child I think the officer is required to stop them: (I think all uniformed police are considered "loco parentis" unaccompanied children)   

       Though if it pans out as usual, nothing will happen officially.
FlyingToaster, Apr 02 2009
  

       Sorry, [FT], i thought you meant the other way round.
nineteenthly, Apr 03 2009
  

       while you're at it the cops could deliver the mail too, make sidewalk repairs, etc. etc. :-)
FlyingToaster, Apr 03 2009
  

       Kidnapping is a complicated legal concept about which i wish i knew a lot less and i don't want to think about it - bad memories.
The police are pervasive and that makes them potentially more useful in this respect than otherwise. It raises some questions though. Paramedics seem to park up and distribute themselves evenly around the city rather than staying in a depot, which makes a lot of sense. Car-sized ambulances seem to turn up pretty swiftly here, and having done their duty then tend to park round the corner for a long time. I imagine that's for logistical reasons. Their distribution is somewhat akin to police vehicles, it seems. Fire engines, however, seem to park in depots and only come when called out. Whereas this may be linked to maintenance, it doesn't make sense to me since i don't see a difference between having well-maintained firefighting equipment and well-maintained medical equipment. Both seem equally crucial. It would seem to be as sensible to have ubiquitous paramedics and firefighters as police, but this doesn't seem to be the case. I don't know anything about the relative incidence of medical emergencies, fires and other fire brigade connected disasters, and crimes. If we have police all over the place, why not also have fire fighters?
Concerning the possibility of "disgracing the uniform", would that then mean that a plain-clothes police officer would have a different kind of duty to intervene than a uniformed officer? If the public don't know they're a police officer, they may be able to do more, or possibly less.
No problem with them preventing children from intervening though.
nineteenthly, Apr 03 2009
  

       well, all the situations they handle are different (obviously) and the response is, too. (neighbourhood) cops are most effective in groups of 1 and 2 and not very equipment dependant apart from what they can carry on their person (and not very much that); firemen in groups of 5-10 and they require their specialized trucks; EMS 2-3 and they're equipment dependant, too.   

       Though it certainly does make sense to have cops as "forward recon": specifically trained such that when they call in a fire/medical/other emergency they know exactly what to tell the person who decides what the response level should be.... I'm not sure (it's been ages since I pored through police contracts) but I think they get that kind of training already.   

       As far as making them into paramedics and firemen... no: those are full-time jobs that require full-time training and mistakes costs lives.   

       Your man there who stopped somebody from entering a burning building possibly didn't have the background or the experience to be able to say how safe it was to attempt a rescue by amateurs, but the person who *does* spent years/decades getting that knowledge full-time and even then his/her knowledge is specific to trained professionals.   

       I can't judge myself since I wasn't there, nor am I familiar with what kind of policing your policemen are required to do. I hope nobody you know was involved.
FlyingToaster, Apr 03 2009
  

       Most fire service kit requires proper maintenance after use, particularly breathing apparatus so they take it back to the station, clean it and recharge the cylinders. Other kit needs checking for damage, etc. A lot of medical kit these days is single use only and it either gets disposed of or goes back to central stores later for sterilisation and repackaging and a lot of this can be done at the hospital where they have dropped the patient off as well as the home station. The more complicated kit has longer service intervals and is usually swapped out when it needs servicing. It's the same with most police kit too.   

       As I understand policing in the UK, an officer can restrain someone from taking part in a rescue if the officer believes that to allow the individual to enter the water/property would result in death or serious injury to that individual. there are cases where people have been stopped from leaping into the Thames in central London to try and rescue someone as the officer knows the lifeboat is on the way and having two casualties in the water complicates things immensely.
oneoffdave, Apr 07 2009
  

       Also keeping distraught people back from fires, in which they would probably die, is an act that civilians (as well as police) have been known to do at times. Making sure that you don't add yourself, or allow others, to add themselves needlessly to the list of casaulties is a principle of First Aid.
Aristotle, Apr 07 2009
  

       OK then, imagine these two scenarios:
a) A parent is neglectful and violent and as a result their children go on to become antisocial in some way, for example they go out and commit acts of violence against others.
b) That same parent, though their character is no better, attempts to rescue a family from a burning building and gets killed along with the rest of that family while their children are still small. As a result, those children go on to become emergency personnel and save many lives.
nineteenthly, Apr 07 2009
  

       c) The same parent gets killed trying to rescue a family, their children go into care and end up involved in drugs and prostitution by the age of 14.
oneoffdave, Apr 07 2009
  
      
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