Tamar Crossings are committed to ensuring the safety of all people using the Tamar Bridge and Torpoint Ferry. Over the last two decades we have developed a range of measures to improve the detection and handling of vulnerable people presenting themselves at the Tamar Bridge and Torpoint Ferry.
Three years ago we decided to introduce some more specific training to help us support people who come to the two crossings and give us concern for their welfare. Today more than 100 staff and contractors have received specialist mental health training to enable them to reach out to these individuals and we are being invited to share information about our wider public safety programme with other organisations across the country.
We have worked closely with mental health professionals, the emergency services and specialist groups, including the Samaritans, to develop our positive intervention programme. As well as providing our staff with specialist training to support them to positively engage with vulnerable people while keeping themselves safe, we also have dedicated CCTV coverage monitored in a 24/7 control room as well as physical barriers on both 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 national suicide prevention strategy.
We work closely with Public Health professionals from both sides of the river.
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. These are:
- Restricting access to a site by closing the site, installing physical barriers or introducing boundary markings or lighting . The parapets on the Tamar Bridge are 1.5 metres high, and are amongst the highest on any major bridge in the UK. We also have high quality lighting both on the Bridge, and in the car park and surrounding areas.
- Increasing the opportunity and capacity for human intervention by improving surveillance, increasing staffing or foot patrols and providing suicide awareness/intervention training for staff working at or near the site. We have eight fixed ‘smart’ cameras on the south cantiliver, with a further 16 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 our control room staff who have a direct link to the emergency services. More than 100 members of staff and contractors have completed a bespoke course which was designed jointly by staff at the Bridge and STORM Skills Training CIC, an organisation which specialises in mental health. The two and a half hour workshop includes sections on understanding distress and suicide, being able to start a conversation with a vulnerable person, helping them to stay safe until the emergency services arrives, understanding the importance of personal safety and knowing how to support those involved in the incident. Sessions are delivered by three senior Tamar Crossings managers who have been specially trained by STORM.
- Increasing opportunities for help seeking by the vulnerable person by providing Samaritans signs and/or free emergency telephones : We 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.
- Changing the public image of the site by ensuring media reporting of suicidal acts is in line with Samaritans guidelines, discouraging personal memorials and floral tributes at the site; introducing new amenities or activities; or re-naming and re-marketing the location; we have been working with Public Health colleagues to encourage the media to follow Samaritan guidance when reporting suicidal acts. We are working with partners to highlight the architectural and engineering contributions of the Bridge 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 we will be developing this programme 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.
One of our staff providing this support 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.
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, and 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.
As front line staff we 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 we feel confident in providing support.
We continue to work with partners to review and develop our positive intervention programme. We network extensively with other crossing operators through national and international forums and we 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 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.