Communities urged not to verbally abuse Operations Control firefighters

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SCOTLAND’S communities are being urged not to verbally abuse 999 call handlers.

The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service’s Operations Control is the Service’s unseen frontline, mobilising frontline colleagues to emergencies and giving life-saving advice to those most in need.

However, in the run up to the Service’s busiest night of the year dedicated staff are often subject to verbal abuse by members of the public.

During Bonfire Night 2018, SFRS Operations Control rooms in Johnstone, Dundee and Edinburgh handled more than 800 emergency calls – more than twice as many calls than in an average day.

Now Scotland’s most senior Operations Control firefighter has appealed to communities to treat Operations Control firefighters with respect this Bonfire Night.

Libby Logan is the SFRS Area Commander for Operations Control.

She said: “Our highly trained operations control firefighters are Scotland’s first point of call in an emergency, and they will use their experience and knowledge to get you the help you need.

“Unfortunately, it is still the case that they can be subjected to disgusting verbal abuse.

“Not only can this be incredibly upsetting in what is already a challenging role, it can also hamper their ability to ensure the right resources are mobilised to the right place.”

AC Logan added: “It is absolutely vital that we can get the relevant information as quickly as possible, and we absolutely understand that emotion and panic can play a massive part in how people respond to the very necessary questions our Operations Control firefighters will ask.

“However, as with any instance of abuse directed at our staff we will take a zero-tolerance approach and work with our partners to identify those responsible and ensure appropriate action is taken.”

Bonfire Night 2018 saw several attacks on SFRS frontline staff attending incidents – with 13 such incidents taking place across Scotland.

This includes verbal and physical assaults, which have resulted in damage to fire appliances and objects being thrown at firefighters.

AC Logan said that it is often difficult to hear news from frontline crews that they have come under attack, but Operations Control is already planning to ensure SFRS crews are supported by partners when entering areas where crews have encountered problems.

She said: “No one likes to hear of their colleagues being put in harm’s way. We are here to protect the public and it is difficult to understand why our front-line team members should be attacked in this way.

“They just want to get in there and get on with the job, and quite often they can be completely prevented from doing so.

“Through our intelligence gathering we have a good idea of where the biggest problem areas are, and on the night, we will work very closely with our colleagues in control rooms for other emergency services to ensure that our firefighters are fully supported when they need to go into a particularly hostile area.”

Operations Control rooms in Scotland mobilised firefighters to more than 320 illegal bonfires on November 5 2018 – and more than 1,900 deliberate fires in the three weeks leading up to the night itself.

AC Logan said: “The clear majority of calls we receive in Operations Control are in relation to illegal or unattended bonfires.

“If these are lit then we can absolutely mobilise our crews to extinguish one and make the area safe – however it is often during these ultimately avoidable calls that we and the frontline crews can be subjected to abuse and violence”

AC Logan added: “I have to make it clear that you should not call one of our control rooms to report the construction of an illegal bonfire.

“In this instance, please contact your local authority who can remove it.

“We would always encourage people as a Service to attend an organised public display and bonfire, consider their behaviours as well as that of children, and help us protect communities from harm.”

For information on firework safety and organised public displays, visit - /your-safety/bonfire-safety.aspx

ENDS

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