Cooma Rural Fire Service welcomes cuddly new recruits

RFS volunteers Isaac and Michael Horneman with some of the Gentle Bears which have been given to Cooma RFS  to support traumatised children.

Thirty five ‘Gentle Bears’ have arrived at the NSW Rural Fire Service in Cooma, ready to support and care for children who experience traumatic incidents.

Gentle Bear was the brainchild of Gallagher Bassett and the South Australian Police Department who wanted to do more to help the children they were coming into contact with when responding to 000 calls.

“Gentle Bear acts as an emotional aid for children in emergency situations like house fires or serious road traffic accidents,” said Gallagher Bassett CEO, John McNamara.

“These bears distract a child’s attention from the immediate, distressing situation by providing a reassuring and safe object to latch on to.”

Gallagher Bassett has now partnered with Insurance and Care NSW (icare) to bring Gentle Bear to NSW. To date, 5,000 Gentle Bears have been donated to the NSW RFS in 2019.

icare provides workers compensation insurance to NSW government agencies, including the NSW Rural Fire Service. icare recognised that Gentle Bear could play a role protecting RFS volunteers.

“Volunteer firefighters do an amazing job taking care of the community in times of crisis, however, the trauma associated with these situations can negatively impact the mental health of volunteers,” said icare’s General Manager of Agency Engagement, Britt Coombe.

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