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Lisbon firefighters will get speedier on two wheels

Lisbon firefighters will get speedier on two wheels

A pilot project will test out the new service and its efficiency

Yesterday, 26 January, the municipal website of Lisbon reported about the introduction of a new pilot project in the ranks of the local Firefighting Department (Regimento de Sapadores Bombeiros de Lisboa (RSB)), which involves testing out the use of motorcycles to respond to emergency calls. The start of the initiative was also launched yesterday although its expected provisional length before analyzing the results was not mentioned.

The nature of the firefighting profession has been evolving in the past decades

Traditionally, all of us have grown to think of the iconic image of the firefighter driving large red trucks, using ladders and large hoses to put out the fires wherever they may spring up in the city. The reality, however, is that while fire remains (and will remain) a threat to the well-being of urbanites, it is climate change, shortage of water and desertification that have made them a much larger hazard in the outskirts, rural and forest areas as we get reminded every summer on the news.

The change in construction materials, fire hazard codes, alarm systems and even human behaviour have contributed to the lessening of the frequency of fires in the cities. That, however, does not mean that firefighters are on the brink of extinction there. It simply means that these days they tend to respond to a much wider variety of emergency than they used to initially.

For example, it is reported that the RSB attends to 20 000 calls per year in the Portuguese capital. The majority of these, however, do not require the involvement of a full team, truck and equipment. In fact, that is a waste of resources. Not to mention that it also burdens the traffic flow on the streets the municipal budget, and also contributes to more carbon emissions and noise pollution.

As a result, Lisbon has decided to use another capital as a role model, Tel Aviv (Israel) where firemen on motorbikes have been considered a success.

The objective is to have the firefighters on two wheels get faster to places in order to attend to smaller emergencies, including medical ones. For that purpose, the motorcycles will be equipped with defibrillators. The motorized firemen will also be able to evaluate the need for a larger support team to arrive and will contact it in case it is needed.

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