Dean McWhirter Firefighter Control Regional Control Centre, NIFRS HQ, Lisburn Read this articleRead all 9 articles
Put Safety First Behind the Wheel
As the Road Safety Manager for Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service, Catherine Bloomfield knows only too well the tragedies that occur on our roads and the challenge faced to reduce the number of road deaths and injuries. Last year, 79 people tragically lost their lives in road traffic collisions in Northern Ireland and to date this year, 64** people have lost their lives. For each road death the impact is felt by family and friends long after the emergency services have left the scene.
This year, during Road Safety Week 2015 (23-29 Nov), NIFRS has organised a number of road safety events to reach out to drivers to remind them that road safety is everyone-s responsibility and that by thinking safety first every time we get behind the wheel, together we can reduce the amount of road traffic collisions, death and serious injury on our roads.
As Catherine explains – -As Road Safety Manager for NIFRS my role is to co-ordinate all NIFRS Road Safety activity throughout the year to ensure that our Firefighters are trained and equipped to the highest standard in order to provide that emergency response at incidents and also to ensure that NIFRS is playing its part, alongside DOE and the other emergency services, in educating the public about road safety.
-My job is primarily to support Firefighters across Northern Ireland who are out there responding to road traffic collisions, rescuing people trapped in vehicles so they can receive the required medical attention as quickly as possible. This year so far Firefighters have attended 639* road traffic collisions and rescued 499* people. What Firefighters witness at the scene of a road traffic collision can be harrowing and it is because Firefighters see the consequences of road traffic collisions and the lives completely destroyed, that NIFRS is doing its part to reduce the carnage on our roads.
-Our advice to road users, and particularly young drivers, who unfortunately are statistically more likely to be involved in a road traffic collision, is to Slow Down, Wear a Seatbelt, Pay Attention and Never Drink/Take Drugs and Drive. We are taking our road traffic collision rescue demos out around Northern Ireland this week, to schools, colleges, universities and community groups to show people what Firefighters are faced with when attending road traffic collisions and how quickly lives can change forever as a result. These hard hitting rescue demonstrations highlight the consequences of irresponsible driving and remind people that although Firefighters are here to rescue people, sadly too many people can-t be rescued.â?
While Road Safety Week provides a focus for NIFRS road safety activity, Catherine is keen to stress that every week should be treated as Road Safety Week. One of Catherine-s roles is to work with the NIFRS Road Safety co-ordinators out at Fire Stations to co-ordinate road safety events in local communities and to analyse statistics so as to concentrate road safety educational activity in areas of highest risk. For NIFRS this means, targeting young drivers, aged 17-24 who are recognised as a particularly vulnerable group.
Catherine explains, -For the majority of young people, driving a car will be the biggest responsibility they will have had in their life to date. Young drivers need to remember they are not invincible and that they have a responsibility to themselves, their passengers and other road users – other car users, cyclists and pedestrians – to be safe. The young people who see our road traffic collision rescue demonstrations are always left with the lasting impact of the event and we hope it is something they remember every time they get behind the wheel. â?
While much work has been done by all the road safety partners there is still much to do. Even one road death is one too many and NIFRS will continue to work in partnership with DOE, PSNI, Ambulance Service and communities to drive home road safety messages to all road users.