28 June 2023

Wollongong firies hope to extinguish their competitors as they chase national title

| Keeli Royle
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Fire and Rescue NSW performing CPR on a dummy for the ARRO Challenge.

Emergency services from across the country will compete for the ARRO Challenge national title. Photos: FRNSW.

Illawarra firefighters will face off against the top emergency services crews from around the country and the world when they battle it out for top honours at the Australasian Road Rescue Organisation (ARRO) Challenge this week.

It will be a chance for the Wollongong team to prove themselves after they narrowly missed out on gold last year, losing to South Australia’s Metropolitan Fire Service.

This time they’ll be on their rival’s home soil, with Adelaide hosting this year’s event, but the team’s leader Inspector Andrew Barber is confident that his crew can regain the title.

“We only came second by about four points out of 600 last year,” Inspector Barber said. “We have come first previously, we’ve been in the worlds on two occasions in South Africa and Brazil, so it’s a strong team.”

“We’ve got two new members in it this year so a bit of familiarity is gone but it’s good because it shares the learning experience around between more firies.”

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The competition may include a bit of competitiveness and fun, but the scenarios are very serious. Teams are put to the test with four days of simulations and are judged in four areas: entrapped rescue, controlled rescue, time-critical rescue and trauma rescue.

From cutting cars apart to reach motorists, to providing emergency first aid and perfecting ‘firefighter down’ scenarios, the challenge involves a range of situations.

“You’re playing to judges a little bit to get the points that you need, but it is very realistic,” Inspector Barber said. “The scenarios themselves are designed to replicate actual motor vehicle accidents and the techniques are the same that we use everyday on the road, so it’s great preparation for the guys that are involved.”

Damaged car used in simulation for ARRO.

Teams will complete four days of challenges including rescuing patients from trapped cars.

The Wollongong team consists of six people who will take on the roles of medics and tool operators during the scenarios.

Inspector Barber’s role is to direct the team to make sure the task is completed efficiently and correctly.

“I’m a bit of a hands on guy and I find it hard to just stand back and keep out of it,” he said.

Fire and Rescue NSW Deputy Commissioner Jeremy Fewtrell, who is also the president of ARRO, said the competition was a terrific way for agencies to share their ideas, improve their proficiency and show the community it’s in safe hands when road crashes occur.

“I’m really proud of the level of skill shown by the competing agencies,” Deputy Commissioner Fewtrell said.

“It’s not just about speed but knowledge, innovation, teamwork and attention to detail.”

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He said that the development of the skills and knowledge tested during the competition is crucial for the real emergencies these crews can face on the job.

“The benefits and know-how that arise from the ARRO Challenge are directly reflected at crash scenes when the public needs us the most.”

Wollongong will compete alongside Fire and Rescue crews from Broken Hill and a combined Region South team as they chase the title.

The competition will run until 2 July.

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