Orana RFS to hand out Gentle Bears to children in traumatic incidents

HELPING HAND: Orana RFS district service coordinator Mark Pickford handing the Gentle Bears over to the firefighter volunteers, pictured with their families. Photo: BELINDA SOOLE
HELPING HAND: Orana RFS district service coordinator Mark Pickford handing the Gentle Bears over to the firefighter volunteers, pictured with their families. Photo: BELINDA SOOLE

The Orana Rural Fire Service has added a new tool to their arsenal to aid during emergencies.

The RFS has received 2500 Gentle Bears, donated from icare. They will be given to children after traumatic incidents like car accidents.

Orana RFS district service coordinator Mark Pickford said the Orana units had 60 bears to give out to young victims.

But, while the bears will be given to children, Mr Pickford said they would have other benefits.

"It's as much about looking after our firefighters as it is looking after our victims," he said.

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"The research says that a lot of emergency first responders really struggle post incident, especially if there is nothing they can do in the situation. So you have a motor vehicle accident, you've got a kid in distress and if there's nothing they can do they feel helpless, they feel guilty."

Now, the volunteers were able to hand over a Gentle Bear.

"As an emergency service first responder they actually feel they've achieved something other than just put the fire out," Mr Pickford said.

An RFS volunteer could go to crashes, after crash, after crash, but all it took was for someone to have the same uniform as their own child or a similar hair colour and it had lasting impacts, the district service coordinator said.

He said a lot of the time, such as with car crashes, the RFS was there to assist other agencies because there weren't any fires to put out.

However, despite having the bears, the hope is they never get used.

"The response from some of our senior guys was 'I hope they get moth-eaten and becomes redundant before we ever need to use it'. You really hope you never have to use them," Mr Pickford said.

The RFS trucks are fitted with a lot of equipment that may only be used once every 10 years.

"All our RFS vehicles are fitted with a defibrillator. We've got 150 of those in Orana but, touch wood, we've never had to use one in the five years I've been here. But every three years we replace them and teach everyone how to use them because it's another part of our arsenal," Mr Pickford said.

On Monday the Gentle Bears were handed out to the Orana RFS brigades.

More than 10,000 bears have been distributed since they were fist established in 2007.