Emergency Incidents

Its very important for the uniformed public services to grade the severity of the calls they receive

This is to make sure high priority calls which require an immediate response aren’t missed because there aren’t enough units available to respond as they’re already dealing with less important issues. To make sure the chances of this scenario occurring are as minimal as possible the Police have a grading system for calls, when the operator picks up the phone for an emergency call and get an explanation and understanding of the situation they then begin to assess it for its grade of severity, the grade system they use operates between 1 and 4.

How the Police Grade their calls

Grade 1 is an immediate response call which requires units to get there as quickly as possible to reduce the danger to life, the target time for units to be on the scene from receiving the call is 15 minutes. As soon as the call has been received and graded by the operator they will then alert the closest units to respond to the incident, and they will also notify any other services that they believe may need to respond to the incident like for example Ambulance, Fire and Rescue Service, Council and the Environments Agency, this is when the incident becomes a multi-agency (interagency) response.

Grade 2 is a significant priority call, this is a call that the operator hasn’t deemed a ‘genuine emergency’, but nether the less still requires a response as soon as possible, with this in mind units need to respond within an hour to stop the incident from escalating. When the operator receives this call thy will take a detailed report of what the incident is and any other information they think is important, this will help officers understand the situation when they arrive later. They again will also notify any other services that may need to respond and will also give advice to the individual who made the call as to what thy should now do to deal with the incident before emergency services arrive.

Grade 3’s are classed as extended time calls, these are calls that do need a response from the Police but do not need an immediate or fast response time, these are usually given an estimate time of around a 24 hour response. In this situation the operator will take a detailed report of all information to again build up an idea of what’s happened so that officers are informed of the situation before they arrive.

Grade 4 calls are the ones that the Police operators deem don’t need a response, this maybe be because the operator can deal with the issue over the phone or they can dispatch other responders to deal with the incident like the council or utilities companies. However these calls do sometimes still need a response from officers and the target response times for these are around 72 hours after the call. With these calls, emergency operators will likely ask the caller to hang up the line and call 101 (police non emergency line) as this will then stop the caller from blocking the phone line for real emergencies, this means that the incident can still be dealt with but on a line that can be used more effectively to deal with the issue. 101 operators can then take a detailed report of the problem and then give advice and guidance as to what to do next in order to deal with the issue, they will also tell the individual what action will be taken by the police (whether a PCSO or Police unit will respond within the next few days/any other procedures the police will follow to deal with the problem) or any other services to help deal with the issue.

Emergency vehicle safety features

Its extremely important that emergency services respond to calls both quickly in order to make sure they get to the incident to help as fast as possible, and safely to minimise the risk to others wile responding to the incident. If the emergency services just tried to get there as fast as possible with little or no regard to other drives/pedestrians safety, it will likely end up with another accident occurring injuring more people, and thereby prolonging the response to the previous incident even more. So its important that emergency drivers are aware of their surroundings at all times and are trained and able to physically operate the emergency vehicle when its responding at high speeds to an incident, in order to prevent causing another incident while on route.

To make sure they stay as safe as possible to everyone around them, emergency vehicles are kitted out with lots of equipment to make them as visible and reactive as possible to minimise the risk of people getting injured as they respond to an emergency call. When you think you think of an emergency vehicle like a Police car or Fire appliance, you immediately think flashing blue lights and loud sirens. These are specifically in place as an early warning system for other drivers and pedestrians who can then see/hear them while they’re still far away, this minimises the risk of people panicking to get out the way and causing more accidents. To make this even more effective, staff and mechanics working with the vehicles try and think of ways of making these systems even more effective and noticeable, the biggest change recently was fitting all emergency vehicles with LED blue lights instead of the traditional “bulbs in a blue casing”. This was done because LED’s shine brighter and flash faster so they can be seen from further away, they are also smaller so more can be fitted to each vehicle, boosting the chances that everyone will see it coming from a long way away. They have also utilised the use of reflective ‘Battenburg’ markings (passive warning signs) on emergency vehicles so they are easily recognisable is dark conditions making its less likely for drivers to not see them, again acting as an early warning system for drivers. Emergency vehicles are also fitted with radios so that dispatchers and operators can keep in contact with emergency units on the ground to advice them of the best routes to take and whether there are any busy or blocked routes caused by the incidents. This reduces the emergency vehicles response times and also allows them to stay on clearer roads where they don’t have to weave through traffic that could change direction and hit another vehicle or person at any point.

Emergency Drivers

In an attempt to make emergency vehicles even safer while they respond to incidents, most services ask that every emergency driver undertakes a ‘Blue Lights Course’; Emergency Fire Appliance course, Ambulance Drivers course, Police Advanced Drivers Course and Police Standard Response Driving Course.

These are extended driving courses specifically designed for emergency drivers who will be behind the wheel of an emergency vehicle in the future. They are designed to show drivers the vehicles and what they are capable of, show and practise different methods of getting through traffic and safe methods of passing vehicles, how and when to undertake, preparing vehicles for high speeds (gears/accelerating/braking) and how to avoid making mistakes like skidding and drifting that could cause an accident. These things are especially important to Fire and Ambulance drivers as the vehicles they operate can be very heavy and may have loose equipment inside. In the case of a Fire appliance, the driver needs to anticipate the speed they enter a corner at when they have 4000l (4 tonnes) of water on board, as this will make them harder to stop and turn. Most courses cover the same sorts of things like how to control the vehicle at high speed and teaching the laws they that they can now break in emergency situations while making sure they are staying safe when doing so. Drivers also need to be taught how to ‘read’ other road users, this is because when they are responding with blue lights and sirens it can cause people to panic and do silly things like for example, pull to the wrong side of the road, hit another vehicle/pedestrian and even just stop in the middle of the road. To prevent this from happening too often, emergency drivers have to be able to read the decisions that a normal driver might make when they see an emergency vehicle flying towards them in their rear view mirror. This is a crucial skill that needs to be learned by all emergency drivers as failing to do this could cause an accident that they themselves could be blamed for because they would be classed as the hazard that caused the incident because they panicked the driver.

The highway-code changes for emergency drivers when they respond to an emergency call. Certain things like stopping for red lights and speed limits are changed slightly to allow emergency vehicles to get to the scene faster. However the rules aren’t disregarded completely; red lights have to be treated like give way signs, speed limits cant be exceeded by too much (usually 20+mph). Some laws even stay the same for emergency drivers like one way streets and no entries, emergency vehicles aren’t allowed to go pass through these areas as pedestrians and other road users wont expect them to be coming that direction which could then lead to a head on collision or a pedestrian stepping out in front of the vehicle. It’s the same for give way junctions, as the flowing traffic may not see the vehicle approach the junction and have time to stop, so the emergency vehicle must stop and wait till it is let out or sees a gap in the traffic to avoid an accident.

12 Year old girl hit by Police Car

On the 2nd of November this year, a 12 year old girl in Hampshire was knocked down by a Police car while it was responding to an emergency call in the area. Police say the incident happened around 4pm and the girl didn’t see hear the Police vehicle approaching (even though lights and siren were both on) and so stepped out in to the road in to the path of the responding emergency vehicle. The accident resulted in the girl sustaining non life threatening head injuries and was taken to hospital, the police road policing unit are now investigating the incident to see who was at fault.

20 Year old male killed after crash with Fire Appliance

On the 23rd of August this year a 20 year old male was killed after his car collided with a fire appliance while driving through the New Forest. The incident occurred on an A road passing between Lyndhurst and Brockenhurst at around 11pm, both vehicles swerved to avoid the crash leaving both in undergrowth amongst trees close to a campsite. The fire appliance was returning to base after responding to an emergency gas leak at a fuel station nearby, Hampshire fire and Rescue have confirmed that the appliance wasn’t under blue lights and sirens at the time of the incident. The 20 year old driver was pronounced dead at the scene by paramedics and one fire fighter was sent to hospital with minor injuries. The road was closed by police while a full investigation as carried out on the incident

How the media report incidents

Stories like this give the media a chance to criticize the emergency services, they gather all the information they can to try and convince the public that it was the emergency services that made the mistake that then led to the incident. In the case on the 23rd of August involving the Fire engine, the Daily Echo brought up another incident that occurred in 2013 involving a n ambulance which resulted in the death of the driver and patient on the same patch of road, this may be them trying to hint that the emergency services in the area aren’t being trained properly on roads in the area, as the article makes no mention of any other incidents on the road involving non emergency vehicles, the same occurred with the Bournemouth echo. Stories like this can seriously damage the emergency services reputation and can in some cases lead to the public losing faith in them. It may cause drivers to panic even more when they see an emergency vehicle heading towards them, which could lead to them doing silly moves to evade them like stopping, or hitting the wrong pedal at a junction and pulling out in front of it. The main priority of all public services is to protect the public, the last thing they want to do is injure or kill anyone themselves while en route to trying to save another person.

Influences that impact how the public react to emergency vehicles

Another thing which I have discovered that has impacted how drivers react to emergency vehicles, is the high number of people being fined for driving in to bus lanes or slightly passing through red lights to make room for emergency vehicles to pass by. Sarah Groves of Peacehaven was given a £60 fine for pulling in to a bus lane to let 2 emergency vehicles (Police Cars) get through traffic on the other carriage way. The fine was given to her by the city council along with a picture taken on a nearby camera, the image clearly shows her in the bus lane along with other motorists with the 2 Police cars passing by her at speed. Mrs Groves intends to fight over this ticket and hopes they see sense over this confusing incident. Occurrences like this can again cause drivers to panic, nobody wants to receive a fine for doing something instinctive like moving out of the path of an emergency vehicle, this may cause people to just not move in situations like this, forcing emergency vehicles to go round which will add time on to their response which could lead to the incident they are responding to worsening