The role of civil society in post-crash response

Thu 29, Apr, 2021

I want to start by saying ‘thank you’ for the positive and encouraging response to my first blog published in January. Surprisingly I found starting this blog quite daunting as it requires sharing opinions, experiences and general honesty to an audience you cannot see and therefore you cannot gauge their initial reaction. In my first blog I shared my thoughts and experiences about joining the road safety community, highlighting the complexities of achieving effective post-crash response. In this blog I want to highlight the important (and cost-effective) role of civil society in improving post-crash response.

Effective post-crash response requires regular professional training, specialised but relevant equipment, collaboration and coordination between all three emergencies services, the police, the ambulance and the fire service. The World Bank estimates that improvements in trauma care in low and middle-income countries could save more than a million lives, cutting road injury deaths by up to 30% (World Bank, p.66). Despite these benefits the enormous challenge of improving the emergency services can seem overwhelming to authorities.

The World Health Organisation describes civil society as “the space for collective action around shared interests, purposes and values, generally distinct from government and commercial for-profit actors” Civil society includes non-government organisations (NGOs) such as FIRE AID and its member organisations.

Since joining the road safety community and working with road safety NGOs, I have been able to witness first hand the enormous and positive effect civil society can have supporting governments to improve a country’s post-crash response. Although, I do not believe that essential services like the emergency services should fall to the responsibility of civil society as these services should be amongst every government’s top priorities. However, as I have highlighted, this is often not the case given the enormous resources that these services require.

FIRE AID is a UK-based NGO, which recycles redundant (but perfectly useable) fire, rescue and medical equipment that is decommissioned and therefore holds no value in the UK. This equipment is donated to countries with the greatest need; alongside this FIRE AID provide expert trainers who volunteer their time to share their training with emergency services all over the world. FIRE AID’s model enables it to provide hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of equipment and training for simply the cost of transporting the equipment and travel expenses for volunteer trainers. Its projects provide fantastic value for money; providing emergency services personnel with modern equipment, which not only improves their safety but that of their communities.

For example, in September 2019, FIRE AID and founding member, EASST donated 12 modern road traffic cutting equipment sets to the Zhytomyr region of Ukraine. The sets were disturbed across 10 fire stations, this recycled equipment has since been used to extricate 144 casualties during 2020 alone. In Moldova, FIRE AID projects have delivered over 100 fire appliances to the General Inspectorate for Emergency Situations, significantly improving their fleet capacity and contributing to a decrease in response time from 60 minutes in 2009 to less than 15 minutes in 2018!

Civil society projects bring with them many other benefits; FIRE AID projects connect emergency service personnel from all over the world and open on-going two-way learning streams often leading to lasting friendships. I have witnessed fire fighters supporting each other remotely, offering advice on difficult incidents and even supporting colleagues through Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Importantly, the post-crash systems needed to save a life or prevent an injury becoming life changing are also important for responding to natural disasters and other crises. By acting to improve post-crash response, governments are investing in their own country’s overall wellbeing. Working with civil society is a cost-effective way to make immediate improvements to their emergency services and therefore save lives.