Half of 999 crew abuse relates to alcohol

Emergency teams said they have been punched, threatened and spat on. Picture; John Devlin
Emergency teams said they have been punched, threatened and spat on. Picture; John Devlin
  • Abuse revealed as figures link drink to half of call-outs
  • Survey of 1900 staff in emergency services
  • Two-thirds said they have experienced verbal abuse from drinkers
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Emergency services in Scotland have united to demand an end to alcohol-related abuse against their workers – as figures suggest drink is linked to half of all 999 call-outs.

Police officers, paramedics and firefighters said they have been punched, threatened and spat upon while trying to do their job on the front line in emergencies.

A survey of 1900 staff 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.

The three services are now campaigning for an end to such “unacceptable” behaviour.

Scottish Fire and Rescue Service assistant chief officer David McGown said: “The public will be shocked to hear our frontline 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, said: 
“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.

“Instances of this kind of behaviour would fall dramatically if people learned to drink responsibly.”