The Yorkshire Evening Post has teamed up with St John Ambulance to train 500 people with first aid skills in Leeds. Laura Bowyer goes behind the scenes to find out more about the charity’s lifesaving work.
They are the eagle-eyed front line volunteers ready to leap into action in the event of an emergency.
They can often be the difference between life and death.
An army of St John Ambulance volunteers provide first aid at public events and are trained to be community first responders who attend emergency calls.
They also provide vital assistance to local ambulance services during major emergencies and can often be spotted at large events to offer medical assistance.
Father-of-four Kelvin Williams, from Ossett, can often be found at festivals and carnivals across Yorkshire caring for sick or injured people.
Kelvin is part of St John Ambulance’s specialist Medical Response Team who are specially trained to work in large crowds.
Their fitness, clinical skills and sometimes their patience are put to the test at some of Leeds’s biggest festivals or public events.
They have offered support at events such as Cocoon, Party in the Park, rock concerts, pop concerts and big street carnivals.
Kelvin was part of the team on call at Mint Festival, at Lotherton Hall, which recently attracted thousands of festival-goers.
The advanced first-aider was on hand to care for two young women who were taken ill.
Security guards contacted the team and they were sent into a crowded tent to offer support to the women.
Kelvin said: “We are a specialist unit that are trained in working within crowds.
“It is about being able to access the crowd without causing problems, treat the patient and carry them out as quickly as possible.
“We go to pop concerts, raves and festivals.
“We have worked with our colleagues in London and the South East to attend New Year’s Eve celebrations in London where there can be around one million people on the streets.”
The teams are specially equipped with a vest that contains their vital equipment including breathing masks and a canvas stretcher.
The stretcher can be used by three people to help carry a casualty straight from a crowd to help them get some more specialised assistance.
And as part of the unit’s vigorous training they are placed in simulated nightclubs and festival environments to get used to loud music and flashing lights.
They have to be able to find the casualty in a crowd, rapidly asses them while offering lifesaving interventions.
Once the team have managed to stabilise a patient they then have to make sure they extract them safely from a large group of people.
Kelvin, who has been a volunteer with St John Ambulance for 12 months, added: “We work on how to move through crowds and understand the dynamics of a crowd.
“We also train to understand each other through sign language as you can’t always hear what is going on.
“People in festivals are not always happy about being pushed around so we have to be careful.
“Sometimes there can be drink and drugs in situ so we have to be careful although we are thick-skinned.
“I have got children in their twenties that go to these types of environments and I hate the thought of them being in trouble and not having someone there to help.
“If you collapse in the middle of a large crowd getting access and getting that person treated can make the difference.”
The Yorkshire Evening Post launched our First Aid For All campaign earlier this week to recruit an army of 500 first aiders.
The YEP recently revealed that more than half of parents in Leeds lack the first aid skills to save their child’s life.
Figures show that nearly 54 per cent of the city’s parents would not know what to do if their child’s life was in danger.
And nearly one-fifth of parents in Leeds do not view learning first aid as important, according to research for St John Ambulance.
Experts fear that it would only take something as severe as the death of a loved one to make people learn basic first aid. Kelvin is now backing the YEP’s call to arms for more people to take up first aid training in the city.
He said: “It is absolutely essential to learn first aid. Time is of the essence.
“It could be your brother, father, sister or daughter and the simple things you can do to help them can be learned within a few hours. “You don’t need to have a degree to open someone’s airways or put a burn under cold water.“First aid can help to save a life.”
Andy Lane, Medical Response Team officer for the North East, added: “Regardless of what role I do I think first aid is a really important skill that everyone should have, “You never know when someone around you may be taken ill. If people know first aid then they would be able to help out and not just stand by.”
ENROL ON A COURSE
The YEP and St John Ambulance are offering a discounted three-hour course that covers emergency life support procedures for adults, children and infants.
A series of special courses have been organised for YEP readers in Leeds at a discounted rate of £20.
To book a place please ring 01924 262 726, press option four and quote the discount code 20EFAAA.
Please mention the voucher, right, and take it with you to your course.
Courses are suitable for children aged 12 and over. If youngsters are under the age of 16 they must attend with an adult.
Shine Business Centre, Harehills Roads, Leeds
Friday, November 1, at 9.30am and 1pm
Tuesday, November 5, at 9.30am
Friday, November 8, at 9.30am.
Leeds Church Institute, New Market Street, Leeds,
Monday, November 4 at 10am
Monday, November 18, at noon
Monday, November 25, at 10am
Friday, December 6, at 10am
Monday, December 9, at 9.30am and 1pm.