There’s never one around when you need one, that’s what some say about the police but Adeje was the place to look on 11 February. Every rank of officer in Tenerife was there as well as the fire brigade, mountain rescue, ambulance, coast guard and Red Cross, and as for rescue vehicles, there were enough to put Thunderbirds to shame.
The European Day of 112 (the more widely used version of 999) brought together the emergency services of the Canary Islands, 112 Canarias, in Tenerife; quite an honour for Adeje as in previous years the focal point for celebrations has been as far away as the Czech Republic. The importance of the day may well have been lost on the hordes of local school children brought out of class for the day and allowed to clamber over fire engines, try on uniforms, and blast on sirens.
It wasn’t just the children that had a glint in their eyes, ladies love a man in uniform and they were spoilt for choice with hunks in figure hugging outfits. I found the female officers very arresting, Cagney and Lacey never quite did it for me. Fighting fires takes great bravery but the Adeje bomberos (fire crew) had their hands full keeping in order queues of youngsters burning with curiosity as they were lifted in and out of the cab.
The law in Tenerife has always been a lean mean macho machine, their iron grip partly responsible for the relative safety that attracts families to relocate here. Times are changing and it’s good to see a recognition from on high that they are also providing a service, the bright modern approachable police station at the centre of the celebrations in Avenida Barranco de Las Torres helps to reflect that. Full marks for their hands on approach, Unipol had their full arsenal of weapons on display and were letting children try on the body armour and riot helmets. The Guardia Civil were noticeably absent but their more robust role demands a certain anonymity. The new Policia Canarias force were on parade with their almost tank like black and red vans that are now appearing on our streets.
Never let it be said that the various emergency groups don’t interact, if you had seen how friendly the Gobierno (Canarian government) and Rescate (rescue) dogs were getting you would have reached for the hosepipe. The star of the show was the Gobierno rescue helicopter surrounded by a sea of youngsters in the car park. The beauty of the island is always tinged with danger and this versatile flying beast can access the highest peak and wildest ocean and deliver help and comfort at any time.
Action is the name of the game for the gathered forces so a pre-arranged drama unfolded in front of us. An old car represented a crash in a remote spot, the helicopter hovered overhead and lowered crew to assess the trapped dummy, fire and ambulance vehicles zoomed to the scene, cut the car open like a tin can, retrieved the dummy and placed it on a stretcher. The helicopter swept back in and with skill and precision lifted the patient for a rapid trip to hospital.
Peace of mind may not be as dramatic or easy to show but good communication eases the work of the emergency services and this event was well served with information points and leaflets explaining the work of 112 Canarias in several languages, callers to 112 are also met with a choice of languages.
What do you want to be when you grow up? Many of the awestruck children at this special day will now have ambitions of joining the glamorous but demanding services. For the slightly older of us there was a new understanding of largely unseen people who provide a safety net for those visiting or living in Tenerife.