Speeding selfish, says fire station watch manager

By Barrie Hudson - 20 November 2020

Community

The watch manager at Swindon Fire Station has added his voice to those of other emergency workers speaking out against speeding.

Dean Hoskins, who has been a member of Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service for 13 years, and spoke in support of Road Safety Week.

He says that processes in place help him to put the emotional element of the collisions to the back of his mind.

“We’ll get it through the printer when there has been an RTC [road traffic collision],” he explained.

“I then brief the crew with what information I have got there and then, the location, what is involved and whatever detail I have.

“We use that opportunity to just refresh some of our immediate actions.

“These procedures help to just channel our mind. We have the six stages of an RTC extrication – safety and scene assessment, stability and initial access, space creation, glass management, full access and immobilisation and extrication.

“The guys know what their role is, and they understand how they are going to approach it.”

When arriving at the scene, officers are looking at what is before them and trying as quickly as possible to get an understanding of the mechanisms of injury, an appreciation of the speeds likely to be involved, the vehicle types and the spread of the debris among a lot more.

The most important part is establishing the potential injuries, but it sometimes isn’t that simple.

“On arrival, you have to conduct yourself professionally. You get there, you brief the crews off. My initial actions are to do a scene assessment, walk around, understand what the issues are, what casualties there are,” said the dad of two.

“If there are multiple vehicles, I might ask the crews to give the triage if there are no ambulances there at that stage and quite often that is the case. We are first in attendance.

“It is a very casualty-focussed scenario - if there are casualties. Sometimes it is spilt fuel or there is a vehicle on fire, and you need to prioritise the way you approach it.

“I look at my priorities and then I look at my objectives. Priorities is clearly crew safety, public safety and then safety of the property.

“Then, what are my objectives? If the vehicle is on fire, I need to put the fire out first, if I can drag somebody out of the vehicle, then we do that and see those windows of opportunity and it is all very dynamic.

“You try and block out that human element initially so you can focus on the task in hand.”

Unfortunately, a lot of the time, it isn’t just the RTC that the emergency services have to manage - there is the wider public safety.

The priority will always be on those involved in the RTC but that can often be distracted by distressed members of the public, other road users seeking an alternative route or sometimes people trying to video or photograph what has happened.

“It is a drain on resources,” added WM Hoskins. “If the collision is in a populated area, there are usually lots of people standing around and not being particularly helpful it is an added dimension and added risk.

“Having to manage those people is an issue, everyone is on a mobile phone and if we’ve got casualties, we’re trying to protect their dignity while everyone is there busy trying to catch the next social media clip.

“It can be an element of frustration and anger because you’re just there thinking, ‘why are you doing that, when there is a chance this person could be dying’ and they are just interested in videoing it and are being a hindrance to our efforts to do our job.”

For Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service, WM Hoskins is also the Biker Down lead.

Biker Down is a free training course run by bikers for bikers to give people practical skills to help avoid being involved in a crash as well as essential first-aid training.

An RTC involving a motorbike or even a cyclist can often add another dimension to the response needed, and as a biker himself and a dad of an 18-year-old and 20-year-old, this can often bring complexities to the role.

“The impact of a motorcyclist depends on the speed involved and if they have hit roadside furniture, if they have parted company from the machine, if they are wearing the right protective clothing,” he said.

“For me it doesn’t make it worse. It is sort of the after affects when it brings it home to you.

“I am pretty good at managing my emotions there and then, but it is the afterthought.

“I had one at Purton a couple of years ago when I had driven to work on my motorbike because it was my son’s birthday. I had ridden to see him in the morning and then ridden to work and we went out that day to a fatal RTC with a motorcyclist and it is that that brings it home to you.

“I don’t know where the motorcyclist was going but he hasn’t made it to his destination, and it is that impact then.

“It is those situations that humanise it for us.

“There is no excuse for speeding.

“For me it is selfish in terms of the impact that it has on everybody else and the cost to society that it can ill afford.

“There is the ripple effect and it is not just us in the emergency responders, the doctors and the nurses, the morticians, it’s the families and the friends and the grief that cascades out.

“It is a waste of life because somebody was just going too fast.”

To get advice on the dangers of speeding and how to report it, visit https://www.wiltshire.police.uk/Vehiclesandroads. People can also find out more about the national Road Safety Week campaign at http://roadsafetyweek.org.uk.

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