Ian Dunbar's rescue blog: working with multiple agencies

Published:  04 March, 2014

With very few exceptions around the world, extrication is not carried out by a single agency. There will usually be technical rescue, medical rescue and police personnel on scene. In addition to this, specialists may also arrive whether this is to isolate electricity, operate heavy lifting equipment, carry out collision investigation or maybe even an air ambulance to evacuate a patient. Having an on-scene working relationship is one thing, but isn't a training or preplanning relationship at least equally important?

When another agency arrives on scene you should know the following;

1. What do they expect from you?
2. What can you expect from them?

Mutual understanding of each other’s operating procedures, operational aims and, more importantly, limitations will make the process of working together safer and more efficient. This will reduce time on scene.  Knowing how other services operate makes on-scene planning easier and will nearly always allow a swift conclusion.

This sounds fairly simple, but in my experience valuable time and resources is wasted on scene because of the need to identify who will do what, how and when. Of course on-scene communication is vital to ensure safety, but I firmly believe that a close training and familiarisation strategy amongst the different agencies will add real value.

So how do we achieve this?
Well, think back over the last few years. What agencies have you worked with during operational incidents? Make a list and simply give them a call. Invite them to visit you and suggest some joint familiarisation at first, with a view to some scenario training in the future. Have a look at their equipment, their procedures and how they train. Introduce them to your methods, systems and equipment and give them information to take away. Discuss operational aims and objectives; this is vitally important. During my career I witnessed very few ‘issues’ between agencies on scene. Those I did were simply down to a lack of understanding of each other’s priorities.

Multi agency familiarisation and training will help reduce time on scene.

Remember that the contacts you make will be useful to other rescue departments, so share these contacts and share the knowledge! Finally this does not only apply to extrication. Rescuers work with many agencies at many types of operational incidents. So put the coffee on and send out the invites. 

As usual, I welcome your feedback, but I guess you are all too busy calling your local air ambulance for a visit!

Ian Dunbar, Rescue Consultant for Holmatro. 

Follow Ian on Twitter @Dunbarian

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