I’m sitting in a rural fire station with two PCSOs, two emergency first responders, and two firefighters – but there are only three people in the room.
No, this is not the setting up of a riddle. This is a brand new program designed to bring the “bobby village” back to the hamlets of North Yorkshire – only they do the job of the three emergency services, with less emphasis on the police.
Wedged between the valleys, the Forest of Bowland and the Lancashire border, the picturesque village of Bentham was the site of this “public safety officer” experiment which is expected to extend to the whole county.
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Police and ambulance response times are often slow in North Yorkshire’s most isolated parishes, while recruiting part-time firefighters five minutes from the nearest station can be difficult.
Thus, the creation of public safety officers aims to tackle the three problems at once by combining three jobs into one full-time position based at the local fire station.
At Bentham Fire Station, the two men with three hats are Craig Lyons and Robbie Kirkbride, both former self-employed workers who first caught the firefighting bug while working on call.
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The village may not seem very busy – to outsiders the only signs of disturbance are unconscious sheep blocking traffic as they slowly cross the rolling road from Bentham to the A65.
But when Craig started his job amid the Covid pandemic last year, the 39-year-old found hidden issues hidden by the lockdown.
“We have a high elderly population [in Bentham]”, he said.” We are fighting against social isolation. “
In addition to patrolling the streets as a PCSO, responding to fires and providing first aid to those waiting for an ambulance, Craig also delivered packages and food bank orders as coronavirus closures confined people vulnerable people from the village to their homes.
But public safety officers focus on preventing everything from anti-social behavior to checking people’s smoke alarms.
“We find solutions to antisocial behavior through mediation, “said Robbie, 30, who works in Grassington in the heart of the Dales.” We don’t persecute people. “
“I change people’s smoke detectors all the time, if that keeps an 85 year old from trying to get on a stepladder and get hurt, then we’re doing our job, ”added Craig.
“We do the prevention work but if everything goes wrong you can do the rescue.
“Once I went to see a lady who had breathing problems, the ambulance was in Ingleborough [a nearby village]. I provided oxygen as he arrived.
“Then I was able to make a safe and healthy visit to see what care she needed. [and] make sure it comes out.
“It is a job where you can see everything from start to finish because all [emergency] services.”
At times, former painter and decorator Craig even acted like an impromptu handyman, installing new screws on an elderly woman’s door as she waited weeks for repairs.
In the Dales, public safety can be the difference between life and death, especially when it comes to wild swimming, where shock from cold water can prove fatal.
Just last year, the family of Taylor Matthews, a 19-year-old who died of shock from cold water in Skelbrooke Quarry near Doncaster, pleaded that people do not risk their lives by jumping in the water. open water.
Water safety is a priority for Craig in particular.
“My father died drinking and swimming, ”he said.It prompted me to prevent this from happening to someone else.
“I joined the fire department for the first time in 2010 on call. I thought it was a good way to give something back.
“Water safety is a great way to save lives. You can’t stop people who want to do [wild swimming].
“[It’s about] just give people a few simple tips – if you’re in trouble, lie down and let the water [float] you.”
Craig and Robbie both see their new roles as a success, although it took some time for the residents to understand exactly what they are doing.
“People were like ‘Are you more of a firefighter than a police officer?’, “Said Craig.”We represent the firefighters, but we are public safety officers. “
“Now pPeople often joke and say, “What hat are you wearing today?” ”, Added Robbie.
There is now hope that the Public Safety Officers program can be extended to all villages in North Yorkshire, said current Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner Philip Allott.
“We are looking to expand it, ”he said.We derive great value from services in rural areas [like this] where you have trouble getting an ambulance to come quickly.
“They are there to ensure the safety of the public. “
While much of their work is in prevention, Craig and Robbie know that their presence in Bentham and Grassington makes a real difference.
“If there is a car accident, we’re going to make a difference, ”Craig said.
“They know we’re going to be here,” Robbie added.
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