Cutting down on road chaos to ensure safe travelling in West Africa
Since 2003, the World Rescue Organisation (WRO) has been working in partnership with the Ghana National Fire Service (GNFS) to improve its response to road traffic collisions. For almost a decade the partnership has trained over 3,000 African firefighters and has helped to control the rapid increase in deaths on the roads of West Africa, reports Geoff Hayes MIFireE:
In 2003, the partnership was set up between the WRO and the GNFS after a chance meeting between the then head of the World Rescue Organisation and a fire officer who was working with the Adventure Scouts to build schools in Ghana. Since then the partnership has trained over 3,000 Ghanaian firefighters and delivered hydraulic rescue equipment across the country as well as donating fire engines, support vehicles and other equipment.
The 2012 visit took place in Accra in March and has further expanded the partnership. Ghana, which gained its independence from Britain over 50 years ago, has attracted lots of investment from developing economies which is evident from the construction across the city. With this has come a faster road network and more car ownership, leading to increased risk on the road. Accra is its capital city situated on Ghana's south coast; it sits on the Trans African Highway running from Dakar to Lagos.
Ghanaian National Extrication Challenge
The last visit by a WRO Team was in 2008 when they assisted Ghana in running their first National Extrication Challenge. The challenge mirrored the format run across the world where teams are asked to tackle simulated car accidents and are assessed on their performance. Although there is a competitive element, the underpinning principle is the global sharing of best practice. The best team from the Ghanaian Challenge travelled to Cardiff to take part in the World Rescue Challenge. Although they did not win, they were given a 'spirit of the challenge' award because of their enthusiasm to learn and get involved. The Republic of Ghana is committed to the partnership. An indication of this is the financial investment that the GNFS makes for each visit which equates to £30,000. This money covers the physical requirements of the course and provides food and accommodation for the students and instructors. A major cost is scrap vehicles whose dissection is a fundamental part of any road traffic extrication training.
In Ghana, most vehicles are kept on the road regardless of their condition which makes scrap vehicles rare. They cost the GNFS over £500 each. The world rescue instructors are all part of the UK fire and rescue services: Tyne and Wear, Cheshire, Central Scotland, South Wales, South Yorkshire, Leicestershire and Oxfordshire. The project has also been supported by three chief fire officers across its nine year life. Some funding for the project comes from the World Rescue Organisation itself and the Charitable Education Foundation of the Institution of Fire Engineers. The trip presents a unique personal development opportunity for all those involved. It delivers practical training that takes place in temperatures consistently over 35 degrees, compounded by the necessary personal protective equipment (overalls, goggles and gloves) required for this type of work. The Ghanaian Fire Service officers seem perplexed by the amount of water consumed by their UK colleagues.
The instructors have differing amounts of experience of working in Accra. This is partly why the 2012 team was comfortable in attempting such an ambitious programme; it has learnt to deal with some of the cultural challenges of working in a Western African nation. Training was delivered at four different levels: Basic training, delivered by World Rescue and GNFS instructors; Advanced training, delivered by GNFS regional instructors under the close supervision of world rescue instructors; Assessor training for the GNFS Fire Academy and training school instructors, delivered by United Kingdom Rescue Organisation Challenge assessors; and Technical Management of a Road Traffic Collision Response training for senior managers delivered by WRO Instructors.
The team has been careful to reflect on its own mistakes and that has led to the introduction of the new course in the Technical Management of a Road Traffic Collision Response. During the initial visits the training focused on basic skills for firefighters but this meant that the middle level managers were disengaged from the whole concept. The Managers course addressed this by giving them an understanding of the basic skills involved in the road traffic collision response and the managerial support required for prevention and response work. Ultimately this is where the GNFS, which incorporates the Ambulance Service, can save the most lives. The course was well received and seemed to have the desired effect; all managers were left with a development plan to complete within six months. What the managers are able to achieve in this time will be a real measure of its success.
World Rescue Organisation Development Project
The future aims of the partnership are to ensure that the GNFS continues to improve in this area and keeps up to date with best practice as the country continues to grow and prosper. Ghana is committed to maintaining its position as the only West African country that is a member of the World Rescue Organisation. After nearly 10 years of the partnership, many things have been achieved directly through the project and independently by the Ghanaian government. Road deaths are still intolerably high but now elements of the GNFS can rescue people when they are trapped in the wreckage in a way that will reduce the likelihood of further injury to the casualty. The partnership has also provided the GNFS with strategic advice and standard operating procedures for hazardous materials, breathing apparatus and high rise buildings. They also assisted in a review of initial training which has led to significant efficiency savings. The GNFS has reduced the recruit training course from six months to three months while still delivering the required skills and knowledge which now includes a module on road traffic collision training.
The partnership is right to be proud of what it has achieved to date. This World Rescue Organisation Development Project is thought to be one of the longest running and most sustainable projects of this type in the world. It is unique because it reaches out across the country and in that it mainly focuses on road traffic collision response rather than all fire and rescue work. It draws on a pool of instructors identified by the World Rescue Organisation as particularly suitable for this type of work. Experiences from the project and others (in particular those of Operation Florian) have led to the development of the International Development and Humanitarian Aid Guidance Handbook produced by Chief Fire Officers Association.
For more information visit the World Rescue Organisation website www.wrescue.org
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