Andrew Morley, Deloitte Public Safety and Justice Lead, argues that the emergency services have an important role to play in working with other agencies in delivering public safety.

Traditionally, the role of the emergency services – the police, civil defence and paramedics – has been to respond to a call for help by dealing with what they find on scene, minimize the risk of further harm and in the case of criminality start the process of identifying and apprehending the people responsible.

Over the years emergency services in the region have worked tirelessly to deliver a timely and appropriate response to incidents.  Whether it be through dramatically reducing response times, developing the capabilities of responding officers or improving the equipment available to them the primary focus has been on getting better at dealing with the incident.

There are also examples of how collaboration has been taken further to support prevention as most clearly evidenced by success in reducing deaths on the roads. According to official figure KSA and the UAE reduced road traffic fatalities by 33% and 11% respectively in 2018 against 2017 figures. Key to these impressive reductions was a better understanding of the risk factors likely to result in a fatality.

Both countries have improved data collection on accidents so that it captured information on causation. By aggregating this data and making it available to other agencies, decision makers were able to design interventions – seatbelt legislation in the UAE, and the revision of the violation scheme in KSA being two examples – to address the highest risk factors and in doing so arguably contributed to the reductions in fatalities. Something that could not have happened if the emergency service limited themselves to dealing with the road traffic accident.

This approach to collaboration should provide us the confidence to do more of this, and in other areas of public safety and we can draw on some global experience for inspiration.

‘Blue Light Collaboration’ programmes have seen closer working between the Police, Fire and Ambulance Services with the benefit of both delivering efficiencies and improving the effectiveness of the response. One such example is in Wales where they are implementing a new Emergency Control Centre that integrates Police and Civil Defence, and has on site medical staff to triage calls to police and civil defence requiring an ambulance during hours of peak demand.

The early findings from the evaluation being conducted by Cardiff Universities’ Police Science Institute (UPSI) suggest the co-location of services is already delivering results: the amount of time handling calls has been reduced; ambulances have been freed up and police are not responding to as many incidents that do not require a police response. And whilst we wait for the full evaluation this should translate into a quicker and more appropriate response to incidents which in turn will inevitably save lives.

However this collaboration can also extend to joining with other non-emergency public bodies in informing and encouraging broader prevention activity.

It is common for governments to hold inquiries into significant catastrophic incidents that have seen significant loss of life. The horrific fire at a tower block in London, Grenfell Towers, is one such example where the government has established an independent panel to consider what caused the fire and to learn the lessons from that, and the response to it. The objective being to minimize the risk of a similar tragedy in the future.

In Ontario, Canada the Chief Coroner is required to convene a confidential multi-discipline review of deaths that have occurred as a result of domestic violence, and to make recommendations to help prevent such deaths in similar circumstances. The latest report, published in 2017, makes for an interesting read and includes recommendations for a range of agencies to include the Health and Education departments.

Whilst neither practicable nor desirable to establish inquiries or conduct reviews after every incident the emergency services have, in responding and dealing with incidents, the opportunity to capture learning and identify issues and risks which, if addressed, could make people and communities safe. With the additional benefit of reducing the demand for emergency response.

Extending this approach to other areas of public safety in the region would bring benefits but it is not easy. It requires the emergency services to look to their mission, rather than just their function if they are to agree a common objective with partners.

Underpinning this has to be effective collaboration across agency and departmental boundaries.  This is essential in identifying what are the questions that need to be asked and how these can be captured in any data; and in providing the forum in which findings can be examined and discussed before developing the interventions necessary to reduce risk.

Many of these interventions will fall to other agencies rather that the front line emergency service to deliver; but the reduction in harm and lives saved from these would benefit everyone, and properly position our emergency services as part of a broader public safety ecosystem. Such a prize must make the effort worthwhile.

If you would like to speak to us about any of the issues raised in this blog, or anything related to how Deloitte can support public safety please do contact Andrew at anmorley@deloitte.com or an +971 (0) 501118406

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