By Chris Elliott…….
Last week people around the world were watching with horror live broadcasts on 22nd March 2017 of Westminster Bridge and the approach to the Houses of Parliament in the UK as a lone terrorist attack took place that left so many people dead or seriously injured.
Security and emergency service personnel rushed to the scene to contain the security risk and help those who had been injured and the overall impression was that the response was extremely quick. This could only have been achieved as a result of much training and preparation for an extreme event plus of course excellent communication and co-operation between the individual emergency services.
How ironic it was, that the following day I visited the Girne American University in Northern Cyprus to attend a workshop with friends who had experience of working as volunteer first responders in both the UK and the TRNC.
The TRNC Ministry of Health in conjunction with 112 Emergency Service Committee Coordinator and Vice Rector of GAU Medical Faculty, Dr. Mehmet Avcı had arranged this workshop to bring together representatives of the individual TRNC Government, Emergency Services, Hospitals and Private Hospital and First Responders from various search and rescue groups.
The main aim as we could understand it, is to seek to have an emergency services central command centre and also try to bring the private hospital ambulances under a central umbrella network so they can assist when the need arises.
It was good to note that the history of the 112 Ambulance Services was explained to the delegates and pointed out that the late President Rauf Denktaş, invited Terry Carter and his team from Thames Valley Rescue Unit in the UK to come to North Cyprus for a 5 year period to give first aid training to 2,000 people including nurses, police, civil defence workers and doctors.
Terry Carter came back to North Cyprus some years later and founded the 112 Volunteers which still continues to give first aid training and are now known as the Civil Emergency Service Volunteers (CESV).
The workshop was conducted in the Turkish language but with the visual display information used, our group were able to form impressions of the aim of the workshop during the period we attended the workshop. No doubt the tragic impact of the UK major incident focussed many minds there on the need for change and of our group these were the impressions gained.
I retired from the NHS in the UK where I worked in the forensic mental health sector and occupational therapy and was a fitness trainer for patients and also trained nurses and other medical staff in breakaway skills, restraint techniques and how to deal with patients in certain situations where de-escalations skills are required.
Now living in Northern Cyprus, my interest in attending this workshop was to find out if mental health was being considered in the presentation and also to find out how the TRNC 112 Ambulance Services came into being and how it functions and also how it is planning to try and develop a central communication centre so that steps can be taken to co-ordinate all emergency services so they can work as a cohesive unit when the need arises.
From my experiences I am aware that those with mental issues may be subject to trauma like most casualties in an incident, but it’s for first responders to try and establish this type of condition so appropriate treatment can be given
As a regular visitor to North Cyprus from Kent in the UK, I was delighted to attend this workshop as I am a volunteer Community First Responder attached to the UK Ambulance Service and our function as community first responders (CFRs) is to respond to local emergency calls and provide life saving first aid in those vital minutes before an ambulance arrives.
Community first responders are trained to assess the situation, providing immediate first aid if needed, and establish the patient’s previous medical history.
Attending this workshop and understanding how the TRNC emergency services operate, and having some knowledge of volunteer groups in North Cyprus, it seems a very valuable intention to try and bring all emergency services together under one communication network and also make better use of those volunteers that want to help, be they citizens or expatriates.
As Operations Director of CESV, I went along to the workshop with two colleagues, Gunilla Brander a retired Paramedic from Sweden who now lives in Northern Cyprus and Erman Bicen a Turkish Cypriot, who are both active members of our group of volunteer First Aiders and Trainers.
We have a long history as first aiders of working as a voluntary group alongside Sivil Savunma (Civil Defence) and also have ongoing contact with the police, hospitals, schools and others who we train so we welcomed the opportunity to listen to the plans to try to coordinate the communications of all TRNC emergency services which would help in the time of a major incident requiring all emergency services and agencies to respond together like we viewed the UK emergency services responding when they dealt with the UK Westminster Bridge and Houses of Parliament incident.
Cyprusscene is committed to bring further news to our worldwide readers, so through our friends and contacts we have made in connection with this event, we will endeavour to publish further news of the developments eminating from the 112 Emergency Ambulance Services Workshop at Girne American University.