Highlighting the effects of road trauma on emergency services personnel

Collie St John Ambulance volunteer paramedic Bonnie Cabrini and paramedic Troy French, with Collie Volunteer Fire and Rescue Service captain Shane Hickson and Collie Police senior sergeant Heath Soutar. Photo: Breeanna Tirant
Collie St John Ambulance volunteer paramedic Bonnie Cabrini and paramedic Troy French, with Collie Volunteer Fire and Rescue Service captain Shane Hickson and Collie Police senior sergeant Heath Soutar. Photo: Breeanna Tirant

Collie police, firefighters, ambulance crews, hospital staff, and volunteers are highlighting the effects of road trauma on emergency services personnel.

Collie Police senior sergeant Heath Soutar said emergency service personnel had attended the scene of several recent accidents and found they knew the people involved.

"Some young people are still being involved in crashes who have not learnt from their friends and families who have been involved in serious car accidents, some with fatalities as a result," he said.

"We want people to learn and realise that lives are valuable."

Senior sergeant Soutar said he had been in Collie for two years and knew some local families well, but not as well as some of the emergency services volunteers.

"These volunteers that put in their time in the middle of the night, they've still got jobs of their own, but they still volunteer their efforts and they would always have in the back of their mind, 'am I going to know this person?' when they attend a road crash," he said.

Collie St John Ambulance paramedic Troy French said volunteers could be affected by what they saw while carrying out their duties, particularly in a small town.

"Country emergency service personnel could be affected a lot more in contrast to city emergency service personnel, potentially, just by them knowing members of the community and having those links," he said.

Collie Volunteer Fire and Rescue Service captain Shane Hickson said he had seen 26 road fatalities in the past 10 years.

"Their decisions are hurting us and they're hurting our community," he said.

"As my role as captain, knowing the person is something I have to take into account for not only myself, but for my crew. Then you need to deal with the emotion of that crew member as well as the incident."

Senior sergeant Soutar said emergency service teams had plans in place to provide support to first responders after a traumatic road accident.

"At the scene, you just click into job mode and say, 'I have a job to do. Let's do it. Let's extract someone from the vehicle and save a life.' We have this mechanism that allows us to cope and deal with it at the time and do the job we were trained to do," he said.

"Then afterwards we start thinking about our troops."

Senior sergeant Soutar, Mr Hickson and Mr French all said counselling and chaplain services, follow-up calls, and post-accident debriefing of crews helped.