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Tuesday 27 June 2017

Changes to 'seamless' service could put lives at risk, says firefighter

Donal Petherbridge fears the proposed changes might lead to a ‘fragmented response’
Donal Petherbridge fears the proposed changes might lead to a ‘fragmented response’

A senior firefighter has insisted Dublin's "seamless" fire and medical rescue service helps save lives.

Father-of-four Donal Petherbridge (52) is among the firefighters working for Dublin City Council who are expected to announce a campaign of industrial action over plans to split the only joint fire and ambulance response service in the country.

Donal grew up in Glasnevin and has worked in the service for 31 years. He is currently the District Officer for Tara Street Fire Station.

Firefighters have voted 93pc in favour of strike action after the council announced plans to move its Emergency Medical Service call centre on Townsend Street to the National Ambulance Service Centre in Tallaght.

Rescues

They claim the public will be at risk because the Tallaght centre cannot send out fire engines and ambulances at the same time.

"We had the busiest year in history from the medical side of it last year," Donal said.

"We had 160,000 emergency calls. We responded to 87,000 medical calls and 60,000 fire and rescue calls."

He said the River Liffey is seen as one of the station's "main risks".

"We did 96 river rescues alone," he added.

Donal said the crew responds to cardiac arrests and the most serious "echo and delta" graded medical emergencies by sending out a fire engine as well as an ambulance.

"It's like the hospital arriving at the address," he said.

"Our response time is very good and the survival rate from early intervention in emergencies like a stroke are very high.

"When there is a road traffic collision on a winter's morning, our crew can extract people from cars and ensure the scene is safe. My main fear with the new service is that there might be a fragmented response.

"The key is a simultaneous response. Can you imagine how critically important time is in a response situation? The amount of interventions that the guys can do, it just saves lives.

Improved

"It's been tweaked and improved since the fire service was set up in 1862 and the ambulances came on board in 1898.

"We are the oldest uniformed body in the state. We are strategically located around the city and know every back street. It's seamless."

Donal, who says his son might also follow him into the profession, insists the dispute is not financially driven.

"Most people are used to working in a certain manner and are very confident and can see positive results out of it. Our heart belongs in this," he said.

"Tourism is nearly trebling in Dublin, the cranes are back up, the Luas is expanding and a new runway is going in.

"Surely it's a time that we want the place to be rocking and rolling from a safety point of view."

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