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News : Frontline 999 Workers Targets of Drunken Abuse and Violence
Cambuslang, Scotland, Aug 24, 2016 -- A joint project by Scotland's fire, ambulance and police chiefs has linked drink to half of all 999 call-outs.
And when frontline workers arrive at emergency scenes they are routinely abused, assaulted, spat upon and targeted.
A staff survey across the three blue light services found alcohol misuse is a contributory factor in around half of the incidents 999 workers responded to.
One in three workers said they were subjected to physical abuse while attending an alcohol-related incident over the four weeks the survey looked at.
Two-thirds said they have experienced verbal abuse from drinkers, while a similar proportion said they had faced difficulties in securing urgent information because of victims or callers being drunk.
All three services are now campaigning for an end to the "unacceptable" behaviour.
Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) assistant chief officer David McGown said: "The public will be shocked to hear our front-line firefighters and control officers are often abused and obstructed by people under the influence of alcohol.
"They are all working to save lives and protect property. Being drunk is absolutely no excuse for impeding emergency responders or directing abuse at them.
"We are determined to get the message across - this is reckless, criminal behaviour that risks lives and it can never be tolerated."
Anonymous responses to the survey shed light on what the services called the "sad reality" faced by those on the front line.
One firefighter said: "I was in breathing apparatus at a house fire and I found a man lying in his bed. He had tried to cook after coming back from a night out but he was drunk and fell asleep.
"The smoke alarm was blaring but he only woke up when I shook him to see if he was alive. He punched me in the face."
An ambulance crew member told the survey: "I have been assaulted, spat at and verbally abused too many times to mention."
The study also revealed that an ambulance on its way to a life-threatening emergency was delayed by drunks who danced in front of the vehicle.
Police Scotland Assistant Chief Constable Mark Williams said: "The demands being placed on the emergency services by people who are drunk are huge.
"On many occasions, it delays police officers, firefighters and paramedics from getting to members of the public who really do need our protection and help."
Daren Mochrie, director of service delivery for the Scottish Ambulance Service (SAS), said: "Our front-line staff should not have to fear for their own safety when treating patients, but alcohol is a key factor in most assaults.
"At times they are verbally abused and have to put up with being pushed and spat on, as well as being kicked, punched, and in some extreme cases assaulted with a variety of weapons.
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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Published: Friday, August 26, 2016