18/12/2003

'Stop attacking emergency services' says Minister

Health Minister, Angela Smith today launched a joint Northern Ireland Ambulance Service and Northern Ireland Fire Brigade public awareness campaign designed to put a stop to attacks on Fire and Ambulance crews.

The campaign is designed to promote the idea that violence towards Emergency Service staff is unacceptable.

There have been 153 attacks on ambulance personnel and vehicles so far in 2003. This is an increase on the total of 122 attacks in 2002.

The Fire Service, meanwhile, has recorded 315 attacks in 2003 against a total of 410 for 2002.

Commenting on the campaign, the Minister said: "I hope that this campaign will shock people into understanding the full implications that attacks on emergency staff can have.

"I want it to become a talking point for people. These attacks should be viewed unanimously as unacceptable and I want them to stop immediately."

The new campaign will include television adverts – which begin today - featuring fire and ambulance crews coming to each other’s aid following attacks on them. They will also reinforce the message that in an emergency, every second is vital, with time lost due to attacks on crews putting people already in danger further at risk.

The Department is supporting the two emergency services with this, the first of three phases, by making available £400,000 for the overall campaign.

Early in the new year an education programme for primary and secondary schools will be rolled out with further initiatives to follow.

(MB)

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