A BOROUGH fire chief is calling for greater understanding of the challenges for emergency services responding to 999 calls.
Assistant Chief Fire Officer of West Midlands Fire Service, Dave Walton, has defended the need for crews to arrive at an incident as quickly and as safely as possible without the fear of prosecution.
It follows a consultation recently launched by the Department for Public Prosecutions (DPP) which seeks better guidance when a member of the emergency services commits an offence while responding to an emergency call.
As it stands, the courts treat 999 drivers the same as ordinary ones and their specialist training cannot be taken into account. But new guidelines are being considered which could see fewer police, fire and ambulance staff hauled before the courts.
Mr Walton added: “What we are asking for is an understanding of the circumstances and an understanding that we are required to drive differently when responding to an emergency call. What we are not asking for is a carte blanche for us to do what we want. Accidents will happen, we are only human but our officers are trained to the highest standard to ensure accidents are kept to the absolute minimum.
“Dangerous driving is dangerous driving. If officers are involved in an accident we understand we are equally as culpable as a normal driver but we ask for our circumstances to be taken into consideration.
“There are also things the public can do to help us when we are attending a 999 call. Keep calm and don’t panic, we are not asking you to mount the kerb or break the law and stop if it is safe to do so.”
Solihull fire fighter Simon Abbotts recently appeared on ITV’s Tonight programme, where camera crews followed him on his specialist driver training.
He said: “The trick is to look as far in the distance as you can possibly see and spot any potential hazards. If you did have an accident on the way, then you’re not helping that person in any way by not arriving. The primary goal for us is to get there as safe and as quickly as possible.”