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11 August 2017, 08:33 | Updated: 11 August 2017, 08:38
In a UK first, Southampton firefighters are teaming up with police to search for high-risk missing people.
Crews will use equipment like aerial platforms and thermal imaging cameras, in a six-month pilot. The partnership could be rolled out across Hampshire if it's successful.
The trial, between Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service and Hampshire Constabulary, will involve St Mary’s Fire Station and cover the police operations across the whole of Southampton.
The collaborative project is a UK first and if successful could be extended to include medium-risk missing persons and get rolled out across the county and beyond.
Through the two control rooms, police will be able to deploy the services of firefighters to help find people who are at risk themselves or considered a possible risk to others.
Two high-risk missing people have already been found by firefighters and police within minutes of a search being launched including an elderly woman with dementia who had fallen into a ditch. The other was a semi-conscious woman in her 30s who was considered a suicide risk.
St Mary’s Station Manager Paul Parry said:
“This is an exciting project for both emergency services and is set to be a great example of what blue light collaboration can achieve.
“By bringing together our combined skills, training and equipment we can better protect the people of Hampshire.”
Hampshire police Sergeant Nick Mills said:
“The benefits of being able to call upon extra people and resources to help in these circumstances could be crucial.
“As well as extra manpower firefighters bring an array of skills and equipment that make them ideally suited to the task.
“For both services this partnership is win, win - and it will save lives.”
He went on to say having firefighters available to search specific areas would free up officers to pursue other elements of the search operation.
In addition to supplying extra trained people to a missing person search, firefighters have skills in rescuing from height and well as water and rope rescue. They also have equipment such as thermal imaging cameras and ladders as well as positive links into the community and Immediate Emergency Care training.
In addition there are plans to use shared drone facilities for such searches in the future.
HFRS Director of Blue Light Collaboration Stew Adamson said:
“The partnership work that is going on between the fire service and police in Hampshire is setting the bar for the rest of the country.
“Projects like these pool skills and resources to keep the people of the county safer and ensure the public gets the best possible value for money.”