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Tamar Crossings Positive Intervention Programme

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Over the last two decades Tamar Crossings have shown their commitment to ensuring the safety of all people using the Tamar Bridge and Torpoint Ferry by developing a range of measures to improve the detection and handling of vulnerable people presenting themselves at the crossings.

A collaborative approach

Tamar Crossings have worked closely with STORM® Skills Training CIC, mental health professionals, the emergency services and specialist groups, including the Samaritans, to develop a positive intervention programme.

As well as providing their staff with specialist training to support them to positively engage with vulnerable people while keeping themselves safe, they also have:

  • dedicated CCTV coverage monitored in a 24/7 control room
  • physical barriers on North and South sides of the Bridge

This follows guidance issued by Public Health England to help prevent vulnerable people from harming themselves which is in line with their Suicide Prevention Strategy.

Working with Public Health professionals

Tamar Crossings work closely with Public Health professionals from both sides of the river. Sarah Lees, from Plymouth City Council’s Public Health team said:

“We support Tamar Crossings’ comprehensive public safety programme which meets the Public Health England guidance and helps support people in crisis”

The Public Health England guidance sets out four key areas of action:

The parapets on the Tamar Bridge are 1.5 metres high, and are amongst the highest on any major bridge in the UK. They also have high quality lighting both on the Bridge, and in the car park and surrounding areas.

  • The Bridge has 9 fixed ‘smart’ cameras on the south cantilever that recognise human form and unusual behaviour, with a further 51 cameras on and underneath the Bridge and around the buildings and the car park area. These are monitored 24 hours a day seven days a week by their control room staff who have a direct link to the emergency services.
  • More than 100 members of staff and contractors have completed bespoke Train-the-Facilitator Package created by STORM® Skills Training CIC. The training brings together best practice in occupational health and safety and suicide prevention and aims to increase confidence and improve skills to intervene in a safe, compassionate way to help prevent suicide on crossings. Sessions are delivered to staff by three senior Tamar Crossings managers who have been specially trained by STORM®.

The team have worked with the Samaritans to provide signs at the entrance at both sides of the Bridge. On the advice of the Samaritans it was decided not to put repeater signs across the Bridge or to provide emergency telephones as most people have mobile phones.

  • Tamar Crossings have been working with Public Health colleagues to encourage the media to follow Samaritan guidance when reporting suicidal acts.
  • Work is being carried out with their partners to highlight the architectural and engineering contributions of the Bridge and they have recently opened a new Visitor and Learning Centre to increase public awareness and understanding of its history and culture. This is part of a package of measures to help promote the heritage of the Bridge and the programme will be developed in the coming months
  • Together these measures are helping to ensure that the vast majority of people presenting at the Bridge with welfare concerns, including erratic behaviour and drunkenness, receive support from the emergency services, health professionals and trained Bridge staff, and are removed to a safe place.

Feedback from staff

One of the members of staff at Tamar Bridge providing support to vulnerable people is Recovery Vehicle driver Alan Dunville. Alan’s role means that he is often the first point of contact for a ‘concern for welfare incident’ and he wanted to feel more confident about what to do, and more importantly, what not to do. Alan said:

“While the emergency services arrive very quickly, it usually takes a few minutes, and those few minutes might make all the difference. I wanted to ensure that I knew what to do and what to say. The STORM® training has helped to give me that confidence”.

Damien Smith is the Coatings Manager for contractors Taziker Industrial. His staff work on and underneath the deck on the Bridge and a number of them have chosen to do the STORM® training. Damien said:

“As front-line staff they often come across a vulnerable person before anyone else can react. No-one is going to just walk past someone who is in crisis and the support and training provided by the Bridge team means that they feel confident in providing support”

Plans for the future

Tamar Crossings will continue to work with partners to review and develop their positive intervention programme including networking extensively with other crossing operators through national and international forums. They are also an active member of the Plymouth Suicide Prevention Strategic Partnership.

“We believe that everyone has a role to play in helping people who are in distress. By combining physical safety measures and the use of technology on the crossings with specialist training for our staff, our positive intervention programme is helping to ensure that we are playing our part in keeping people safe.”

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