Alcohol Abuse Endangering the Safety of Emergency Service Workers

Alcohol abuse is a common problem in the UK and one that puts an enormous strain on public services. With alcohol consumption linked to hundreds of different health problems, the National Health Service spends a huge amount of time and money dealing with various illnesses and injuries caused by alcohol. In fact, a recent survey has found that half of all 999 calls can be linked to alcohol.

Huge Burden
Many emergency service workers have also reported being attacked by those under the influence while trying to do their job. A third of emergency service responders said they had been the victims of physical abuse at the hands of people under the influence of alcohol. Two-thirds reported being verbally abused.

As well as the prospect of being verbally or physically abused, emergency responders also face other difficulties while trying to carry out their duties. Around two-thirds say they find it difficult to obtain urgent information about the patient because of the victim or caller being heavily intoxicated.

One firefighter said, “I was in breathing apparatus at a house fire, and I found a man lying in his bed. 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.”

A paramedic also told about experiences while on the job, saying, “I have been assaulted, spat at and verbally abused too many times to mention. If people could only see the effect they have on an incident when they’re under the influence of alcohol.”

Reckless Behaviour
Mark Williams, an assistant chief constable, 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.”

He said that in a four-week period, thirty-six per cent of police officers were physically abused, and seventy-five per cent were verbally abused by people under the influence of alcohol.

David McGowan, assistant chief officer of the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, 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.”

Fears for Safety
It is incredible to hear that some emergency service workers fear for their own safety while trying to save the lives of the public. These individuals work tirelessly to provide a service, and those who are intoxicated are putting them in danger and are probably putting many people off joining these services.

Scottish Ambulance Service’s director of service delivery, Daren Mochrie, stated, “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. They respond to patients in all weathers and situations and deserve the public’s respect for the high-quality care that they provide. However, 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.”

Despite warnings from the government about the dangers of excessive alcohol consumption, it would appear that many are choosing to ignore them and continue drinking heavily. This is dangerous for their own health but also the safety of others. Unfortunately, it appears as though this is a problem that will not abate any time soon.


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