• MySTV

Alcohol linked to half of all 999 call-outs, figures reveal

Firefighter punched as he tried to save man and drunken revellers danced in front of ambulance.

Survey: Emergency staff reveal attacks and verbal abuse.
Survey: Emergency staff reveal attacks and verbal abuse.

Alcohol has been linked to half of all 999 call-outs, with one in three emergency workers telling a staff survey they have been attacked while trying to do their job.

Police officers, paramedics and firefighters said they have been punched, threatened and spat on as they stand on the front line during emergencies.

A new staff survey reveals 999 workers reported alcohol misuse as a contributory factor in around half of the incidents they were called out to in the four weeks before the survey was carried out.

One in three have been subjected to physical abuse while attending an incident and two-thirds have experienced verbal abuse.

The figures were revealed in a consultation over four weeks from June 17 until July 15, which was completed by 1900 staff from Police Scotland, the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service and the Scottish Ambulance Service.

Police say the figures reveal a "depressing picture", with one firefighter punched in the face by a drunk man he was trying to save from a blaze.

A paramedic also revealed an ambulance on its way to a life-threatening emergency was delayed by drunk revellers who ran into the road and danced in front of the vehicle.

The anonymous responses to the surveys depicted the reality facing those on the front line.

The 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 revealed: "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.

"We have to spend as much time looking after our own safety as looking after our patient."

Staff handling 999 calls highlighted their struggles to get key information about emergencies, describing the battle to understand callers so drunk they are unable to give their location or even state what they think is happening.

Assistant chief constable Mark Williams, of Police Scotland, 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.

"The findings of this survey are as stark as they are unacceptable. Over a four-week period, 36% of police officers were physically abused and 75% were verbally abused as a result of individuals who chose to misuse alcohol."

Assistant chief officer David McGown, of the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, sad: "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."

He added: "Officers answering 999 calls from intoxicated people often struggle to get details of where the incident is and what is involved, which makes it much harder for them to know what resources to send.

"Being unable to get reliable, accurate information also means that firefighters can be sent to incidents without vital information regarding people involved and the risks they may face.

"When someone is trapped in a fire this could mean our teams may not know where to focus their search, which therefore exposes them to dangerous environments for longer as they attempt to locate the person."

Daren Mochrie, the director of service delivery for the Scottish Ambulance Service, said: "Alcohol has a significant impact on ambulance operations across Scotland.

"Crews are responding to alcohol-related incidents every day of the week and at all times - it is no longer a weekend phenomenon.

"Our staff are highly trained specialist clinicians who all too often have to respond to people who are simply intoxicated, delaying their response to patients with a genuine medical need.

"There can also be wider impact on our operations as precious resources often have to be taken off the road to be cleaned after an intoxicated patient has been sick, which takes time and removes an ambulance that could available to respond to a medical emergency."

He added: "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."

Download: The STV News app is Scotland's favourite and is available for iPhone from the App store and for Android from Google Play. Download it today and continue to enjoy STV News wherever you are.

One account. All of STV.

This field is required. That doesn't look like a valid e-mail format, please check. That e-mail's already in our system. Please try again.
Forgot password?
This field is required. This must be at least 6 characters long. Did you enter your details correctly?
If you've forgotten your details then use the 'Forgot password?' link.
Need to reset your password?

We'll send a link to reset your password to

We've sent you details on how to reset your password

Please check your email and follow the instructions.

Forgotten your email address?

Have you forgotten the email address that you previously joined with? Don't worry, by emailing enquiries@stv.tv we can help.

One account. All of STV.

This field is required. Please enter at least 2 characters
This field is required. Please enter at least 2 characters
This must be at least 6 characters long.
This field is required. This must be at least 6 characters long.
You must be over 16 to join STV.
This field is required. This doesn't appear to be a valid date
We need this to check that you live in an STV region.
This field is required. This doesn't appear to be a valid postcode
Would you like us to email you about our great shows and services from time to time?
We'll only send emails we think you'll like (see example) based on information you have supplied and shows you have watched on STV Player. For details on emails and advertising, see our STV & You page.
Would you like to receive emails from the Scottish Children's Lottery about draws, instant games and competitions?
We support the Scottish Children's Lottery (SCL), which is managed by our colleagues at STV ELM Ltd. You can find out more about the SCL on its website, including its Privacy Policy.

By continuing you agree to our Terms of Use, and understand our Privacy and Cookie Policies.

Upload Profile Picture

Please make sure your image is under 2mb in size and a valid JPG, PNG or GIF.

Are you sure?

Unfortunately, you'll be unable to access our premium content. We’ll be sorry to see you go, but if you change your mind you can rejoin us at any time.

Please verify your STV account

Please verify your STV account using the email we sent you. If you have lost the email, we can send you another one, just click the button below.


We've sent you a new verification email.
Please check your email and follow the instructions to verify your account.

Welcome to STV
Thanks for joining us.


Sorry, you must be at least 12 years old to place a vote for your Real Hero.

Please review our Voting Terms of Use for more information.


Sorry! It seems that you are using a browser that is incompatible with our voting service.

To register your vote please copy the below URL in to your regular mobile browser. We recommend Google Chrome, or Safari.



Sorry, you seem to have already voted in this category.

Thanks for voting

Now share your vote with friends on your social network

Share on twitter Share on facebook

Cast your vote

Please register or sign in to continue.

Cast your vote

This field is required. This doesn't appear to be a valid date

Cast your vote

Please fill out this form to cast your vote. As you are under 16 years old you will not create an STV account. Why do we need these details?

This field is required. Please enter at least 2 characters
This field is required. Please enter at least 2 characters
This field is required. That doesn't look like a valid e-mail format, please check.
Location This field is required.
Parental Consent This field is required.

That's you. All that's left is to click the 'Submit Vote' button below. By doing so, you confirm that you and your parent or guardian have read and accept our Voting Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Cookie policy, and that the details you have entered are correct. We'll look after them as carefully as if they were our own.