999: What's Your Emergency? TX: 29 Oct 2012, Week 44


2012 is the 75th anniversary of the 999 emergency telephone number in the UK. But the volume of calls has jumped by 60% in the last generation, with 31 million 999 calls received last year.

Filmed 24/7 with police, fire and ambulance teams in Blackpool over six weeks - and from the moment calls are received - this new 10-part documentary series shows how Britain is changing through the eyes of the emergency services on the front line.

Emergency call centres are the first to respond to our cries for help, making decisions that could be the difference between life and death. The emergency services have become our last hope when there's no-one left to turn to - but they are having to cope with the rising volume of calls and facing tough budget cuts.

Filmed using cameras in the emergency call centres, ambulances, police cars and fire engines, as well as custody suites and on the streets of Blackpool, the series offers unique, unmediated access to every aspect of the work done by the ordinary men and women of the emergency services.

Following strong, humane and engaging characters, the series shows what the 999 staff face every day on our streets - from car crashes and house fires to the fallout from alcohol and drug abuse.

The results are sometimes shocking and thought-provoking, often heart-warming and occasionally very funny as the emergency teams deal with modern Britain at its most raw, vulnerable and challenging.

999: What's Your Emergency? highlights issues that are making headlines in 21st Century Britain - from the emergence of new drugs and the damage caused by alcohol, to the reality of domestic violence, the dysfunctional way that some people bring up their children and the plight of those, from whatever background, who slip through society's safety net.

Blackpool offers a perfect location for the series. Britain's most popular seaside resort, with millions of visitors every year from all walks of life, like any town there are plenty of issues for the emergency services to contend with.

999: What's Your Emergency? continues Channel 4's reputation for making revealing, critically-acclaimed and top-rating documentaries series about Britain's public services, from 24 Hours in A&E and One Born Every Minute to Educating Essex. It is produced by Blast! Films whose recent credits include Channel 4's award-winning ‘Coppers'.

Episode 7/10, Monday 29th October, 9pm, Channel 4

Filmed with the emergency services in Blackpool, this powerful new documentary series reveals how Britain is changing through the eyes of police, fire and ambulance teams on the front line responding to 999 calls. This week's programme focuses on something fueling problems across the UK - alcohol.

Britain likes to drink and Blackpool is no different - the town is a nationwide magnet for stag and hen parties, with around 2,000 clubs and bars. "It's a mixture between a zoo and Jeremy Kyle's waiting room," says Sgt Dunne. "We've practically turned into a nation of just drunkards really, haven't we?"

"You learn a new language when you start working here," says ambulance control operator Alex Bathgate. "When I first started I couldn't understand a word anyone said. But four years down the line I can speak drunk quite fluently on a Saturday night."

But there are more serious consequences to our alcohol consumption than falling over and having a sore head the next morning. With more than a quarter of adults drinking to hazardous levels, alcohol is a major factor in half of all crime, more than 70% of violent crimes and costs the NHS £2.7 billion a year. It dominates the work of all three emergency services.

"Alcohol is behind 99% of the problems that we have, in one way or another," says PC Kris Beasley.

Alcohol is also a factor in a third of all fatal fires: "Cigarettes and alcohol combined are a lethal combination," says fire fighter Tony Barlow. "That is a good majority of fires where people die."

"If we get a kitchen at 2 in the morning invariably it's a male whose done himself an injustice with alcohol and decided that he wants some chips," says fire fighter Fraser Smith. "They put the chip pan on and then the first thing they do is fall asleep on the couch."

The emergency services investigate two deaths of older men who are living alone. One is a man found after reports of a house fire. The other is found dead in a flat with blood everywhere. Unsure of the cause the police have to treat it as a potential scene of crime.

PC Mike Royle has been patrolling the other side of the Blackpool's Golden Mile for four years. Well away from the prom, his South Shore beat is one of the most deprived in the town.

"When you visit Blackpool and you see all the bright lights and all the touristy bit, that's great," he says. "But you turn off and very quickly you're into something very different. There is a lot of deprivation, there is a lot of unemployment and poverty and alcohol abuse. And with that comes a certain level of crime."

Another result of excessive drinking is anti-social behavior and fighting. Violent crime rates in Blackpool are more than twice the national average.

"The people we deal with, thankfully, aren't normally highly skilled, completely sober, warmed up athletes that want to fight with us," says PC Kris Beasley. "It's the reverse, they're smashed out of their brains."

"In Blackpool, dealing with people who are drunk in a town centre that, that's ten a penny, we deal with them day in, day out, they're straight forward," says custody sergeant Lisa Dunne. "The problem comes with people who are alcohol dependent. When somebody's stood there in front of you, you kind of want to shake them and say come on, just wake up and see what I can see and everybody around you is saying to you."

"People we come across in the town centre who are alcoholics, long gone are the days when they used to enjoy drinking," says PC Kris Beasley. "Now it's just stay on an even keel, they just need to do it to stop themselves from feeling unwell which is sad.

"Some people live, some people just exist and we, as the police, spend quite a lot of time in the places where people just exist. If that's all you've got, it's no wonder that you're drinking to oblivion to block it out."

"We know exactly what these people want, be it a bed for the night because they can't get in the hostel," says paramedic Sue Mcgrath. "They've nowhere else, they've no family and finally it comes down to well I know that if I ring for an ambulance I'll get one and somebody will help me.

"Everybody likes a drink to some degree. I don't know what the answer is, but part of the answer has got to be don't keep sending ambulances to everybody with an alcohol problem. We can only do so much, we can only pick the pieces up and hope that you know, we're not going back to them again with the same problem."

"They come to drink, they party, we'll deal with them, when they cross the line they'll be arrested, process them, they'll be back out the door, it's the roundabout of life in Blackpool for the police," says custody sergeant Lisa Dunne. "You start to see people who are becoming alcohol-dependent. Problem is we always say that won't happen to me, when the reality is actually it can and it could it and it may."

Episode 6/10, Monday 22nd Ocotber, 9pm, Channel 4

This week's programme focuses on how women in our society are changing - whether it's putting themselves in harm's way as members of the emergency services, or the increasing number of women the 999 system is having to deal with.

Female emergency service workers reveal their motivations for doing the work that they do and the challenges they face on a daily basis, while the programme features young women for whom drink, violence and law-breaking have become commonplace and a perverse source of pride.

The number of women being admitted to A&E after excessive drinking has more than doubled in a decade and ten times as many women are arrested for being drunk and disorderly compared to ten years ago.

"The women are worse than the blokes nowadays and they get more and more intoxicated than the men," says ambulance control operator Carrie Brockbank. "Women try and drink as much as men and the truth of the matter is they can't, but you're expected to do that and if you don't do it there's something wrong with you."

"Young ladies aren't much like young ladies anymore," says paramedic Erica Reynolds. "If you're looking for somebody to blame, it's the Spice Girls."

"They see these female celebrities getting drunk, falling out of clubs and having a good time and they try and emulate that," says paramedic Sue McGrath.

The programme reveals young women who are increasingly using violence against friends, partners, strangers and the emergency services.

"We're going out to these girls who could just pull it out on anybody, if it's that acceptable to carry a knife," says paramedic Sue McGrath. "It's horrendous...we're going to have to be even more careful. These aren't hardened criminals dealing drugs, these are young girls."

On the other hand, there are now more women on the front line of the emergency services than ever before: "I think the face of the police force has changed dramatically. It used to be like Life on Mars," says PC Claire van Deurs Goss. "Over the past 10 years there's just more and more women coming through."

And some of the officers discuss why they wanted to join the emergency services.

"I was about 4 years old and I entered a little princess competition in Butlins," says PC Jamie Robinson. "All the other girls wanted to be a nurse or a vet or a princess, and I went up on the stage and said ‘I want to be a policeman'...I was quite upset when I didn't win."

"I always wanted to be in the police," says custody sergeant Lisa Dunne. "I went to university and did a degree in applied psychology, I wanted to be a bit like Cracker, a forensic psychologist. That was my master plan in life when I joined the cops."

The role women play in frontline policing has, naturally, been in the national spotlight in light of the recent deaths of PC Fiona Bone and PC Nicola Hughes, killed in the line of duty on 18th September 2012 in Greater Manchester. While such tragedies are thankfully still extremely rare, a career in the police, whether you're male or female, necessitates accepting that facing danger is a very real part of the job.

The officers reflect on what it's like to enter into violent and potentially dangerous situations. Some believe there are distinct benefits to being a woman, particularly when trying to defuse confrontation: "I'm just a bit under five foot. I always find that it works to my advantage," says PC Beckie Herbert. "If you go into a violent situation and look at me and think, ‘I'm not going to get any bravado or credit for hitting her or trying to struggle with her'."

Episode 5/10, Monday 15th October, 9pm, Channel 4

This episode focuses on an issue that is increasingly keeping the emergency services busier than ever - people's state of mind. It's not just accidents and serious crime that are taxing the fire, police and ambulance services, dealing with calls from people with mental health problems is part of every shift's work - and it's getting tougher to deal with.

A quarter of the UK population will suffer from mental health problems at some time in their lives. And with the number of psychiatric beds falling by 80% in a generation, inevitably the emergency services are dealing with more and more people with serious mental health problems.

"The shift that I've seen over the past couple of years is it's more mental health and less fighting crime," says PC Dave Donafee. "We only deal with people when they're at their lowest or at their worst."

PC Donafee is called out to a Halloween party that's turned into a street fight and he comes face-to-face with one of his ‘regular customers', who threatens to take on six policemen. As he won't co-operate, the only option is to take him to the station.

"I'm sure if I met him through the week, lovely guy," says Donafee. "But we only ever meet him when he wants a scrap."

Custody Sergeant Lisa Dunne has the job of processing suspects and assessing their state of mind: "I am responsible for everybody and I am not going to judge people when they come in," she says. "We often have people with mental health problems who'll end up coming into custody and we're constantly trying to get them the help that they need."

Meanwhile Paramedic Sue McGrath is called to a man with a history of faking injury. Tonight he's deliberately run into a taxi and he's previously thrown himself down the stairs. Whether it's a case of attention-seeking or a deeper-rooted issue, Sue and colleague Laura have to take the man to hospital.

Paramedic Sue also responds to a call to a schizophrenic male, who's being taken over by his alter-ego. It's a worrying experience for him and the paramedics.

"You hear about split personality," says Sue. "I just remember his head going back and those eyes and even the lines on his face changed, he just looked like a completely different person - one was childlike in a way, and upset. The other, you're getting ready to restrain him rather than look after him, because he was in charge, or he thought he was."

Meanwhile there's a race to come to the aid of PC Stuart Gornall when he's confronted by a man wielding a large knife and presses his panic alarm to tell his colleagues he's in serious danger.

"When you press that button you think, ‘I need somebody here and I need you now'," says PC Gornall. "When you hear the sirens, you think ‘yeah, my buddies are coming now and things are going to be alright'."

Threatening to hurt himself with a carving knife, the suspect appears to be more of a danger to himself than anyone else, but the officers have no choice but to take him into custody. "We have to help people whether they want it or not," says PC Gornall. "The back of the van or his cell isn't the right place for people who need help, but it might just be that steel door and those custody officers who are dealing with them, which might just prevent them taking a life or taking their own life."

When the switchboard get a call from a man claiming to have taken 40 pills, the operator must keep the caller on the line until the police or ambulance arrives. Even though the man is a regular caller, frequently dialing 999 in a very public cry for attention, the emergency services have to take it seriously.

An emergency motorcade is needed to bring one man to hospital, it's a cry for help with a big price tag. "Four emergency service vehicles, for one man, it's around about the £200 mark for each emergency ambulance that is sent out," says Paramedic Amanda Evans.

Paramedics Dan Cross and Dave Leahy are sent to an alcoholic caller who's suffering from depression and has been on a binge for the past few weeks. He's desperately trying to break free of his addiction, but just can't stop drinking. Dan tries to do what he can to help: "If that's simply just talking to them, and listening to them and trying to be compassionate maybe that will be all they need on that day," he says. "It's not what would come under the bracket of a 999 job, who else is going to go and help them? In a lot of ways the buck kind of stops with the ambulance service."

And when a body is found outside a block of flats, having fallen from the fourteenth floor, all three emergency services are called. They must face a traumatic situation and piece together what's happened. Is it the result of foul play or the tragic result of someone losing the battle with their inner demons?

Following strong, humane and engaging characters, the series shows what the 999 staff face every day on our streets - from car crashes and house fires to the fallout from alcohol and drug abuse.

The results are sometimes shocking and thought-provoking, often heart-warming and occasionally very funny as the emergency teams deal with modern Britain at its most raw, vulnerable and challenging.

Episode 4/10, Monday 8th October, 9pm, Channel 4

There is one night when everyone's up for a party: payday. Whether you work a 50-hour week or depend on state benefits, the day that money hits bank accounts across the UK signals the beginning of drink-fuelled celebrations - a time to forget your troubles and blow off some steam. For the call operators at Blackpool's emergency control centres hearing about our payday excesses is a weekly occurrence and money plays a part in many 999 calls - from the serious ‘intruders-on' burglaries to the callers reporting a lack of credit on their mobile phone or being charged an extra 50p on their bank card in a local shop.

Still suffering the impact of the recession, almost one in five households across the country have no one working. And money troubles are felt particularly keenly in Blackpool's South Shore area - ranked ninth poorest community in the UK. But, having less money it your pocket doesn't stop local residents from heading out to the pubs and clubs to enjoy themselves on payday. The desire to party with your friends leaves those on benefits with a dilemma - "eat for two weeks or drink for one night".

But for Blackpool's Police, Fire and Ambulance services, dealing with the payday fall-out leaves them with far less to celebrate. This episode sees the fire service dealing with their biggest night of weekend revelry - bonfire night - when they see a five-fold increase in call-outs. Meanwhile, the police are dealing with frequent caller, Lindsay Taylor, whose boozy bust-ups with her partner have resulted in 140 calls to her address. Long-term benefits-dependant Lindsay also admits to celebrating a moment of financial bliss on payday with her friends: "I'm not a cheap date. I can blow £150 in half and hour!"

As with any good party, the following day can leave you with a sore head, but it's the financial hangover that really takes its toll. By choosing a night on the town over the weekly shop, some people find themselves turning to petty crime to survive the lean period before payday comes around again. Whether it's shoplifting, burglary or buying and selling on the black market, the choices made by those desperate for money usually results in a 999 call to the operators at the emergency services control room.

Paramedic Alan Gardener is called to a man staggering down the street suffering the effects of what could be contraband alcohol. Alan explains that even legal substances can be lethal when they've been produced by someone wanting to make a quick buck: "Cigarettes that people don't know what is in them creating all kinds of respiratory that creates kidney and liver problems, turns people yellow."

Tonight's episode, charts the highs and lows of this payday cycle, through the eyes of the emergency services personnel and some of the local residents regularly caught in this benefits dilemma.

Episode 3 - Monday 24 September, 9pm, Channel 4

This week's programme focuses on relationships. When things go wrong more of us than ever are dialing 999, asking the emergency services to pick up the pieces and protect us from those we used to trust. An increasing number of 999 calls involve relationship disputes, but they're never easy to resolve.

PC Claire van Deurs Goss has just started her Saturday night shift - and like most nights it's going to be dominated by bust-ups between friends, couples and families. "Every single shift I go to a domestic...I'm everybody's social worker," says PC van Deurs Goss. "They've not invited us to their wedding, but they'll invite us to their arguments."

Many of the 999 calls PC van Deurs Goss and her colleagues attend are not genuine emergencies: "It's not even a crime most of the time. It's just somebody who needs help facilitating their life," she says. "We go to jobs that I would class as childish, where basically you go in and say ‘Stop behaving like children, get it sorted, give it him back, give it her back."

The emergency operators are inundated with petty, non-emergency calls, ranging from people falling out over what they're watching on telly, to others arguing about computer games and who gets to keep the kitten when they split up.

But domestic arguments often erupt into violence - last year cases of domestic violence increased by an astonishing 35% within a single year. And it is the emergency call operators who are the first to hear from the victims.

PC Kris Beasley is called to intervene when a couple's night out has gone wrong. An 18-year-old man has been accused of punching his girlfriend outside a pub and she is determined to press charges...this time.

Meanwhile, while working the night shift at Blackpool's central police station, PC Jamie Robinson is sent to a fight in a house that's turned into serious violence. The victim has been stabbed in the stomach with a broken bottle leaving a wound that may require emergency surgery. His pregnant girlfriend is left weighing up how close she came to raising a child without its father.

"There was a lot of blood everywhere. And when I've gone over to have a look at the wound, his intestines and his guts appeared to be almost hanging out," says PC Robinson. "I suppose to him it's just a war wound. It's just something to show off to his mates ‘This is what happened to me, but you should have seen the other guy!'."

PC Claire van Deurs Goss responds to a call from a heavily pregnant woman who claims to have been assaulted by her partner. But she refuses to press charges, even though he has a history of attacking her and former partners. Another woman has been head-butted by her ex-boyfriend, the latest of many attacks: "It's nothing out of the ordinary if I get knocked about a bit anyway. Every guy does it," she says.

The victim's 6-year-old son wants to become a policeman so that he can protect his mum. For the emergency staff, it's heartbreaking that children are caught up in their parents' fights, with some as young as six calling 999 for help.

Paramedics Paul Atherton and Mandy Jenkinson have seen it all in their thirteen years of working together. "We do see a lot on our job," says Paul. "It does stop you in your tracks and I guess you tend to grab life firmly with both hands because of it."

But it hasn't put them off romance - as well as being life-saving colleagues, Paul and Mandy are a couple: "So 24/7 we're together, which some people will probably go ‘Oh my God, how do you do that?!', but it works for us," says Mandy. "Oh he gets on my nerves, of course he does. Sometimes we're like Jack and Vera and we bicker, but which couples don't?"

Paul has been popping the question for years: "It was getting to the stage where it was probably at least three times a day, just to annoy her," says Paul. Will Mandy finally give in and say yes?

Dir: Wesley Pollitt

Series Prods: Daniel Fromm, Mark Jones

Exec Prods: Edmund Coulthard, Guy Davies, Simon Ford

Prod Co: Blast! Films

Programme 2 - Monday 17 September, 9pm, Channel 4

focuses on kids, who are taking up more and more of the emergency services' time, whether it's prank calls, bad behavior or poor parenting.

"When I was young, I was definitely not scared of the police, but respectful of them," says PC Mike Ellis. "If a policeman stopped to talk to me I'd be very nervous about it."

Now things have changed and deference for the police from kids is a thing of the past. "I don't think we get called pigs as much as people would like to think we do...I've been called the C-word quite a few times," says PC Ellis. "I think we've got 35 cells and several thousand disrespectful teenagers so locking them up isn't an idea, we'd have a police station full of children."

Emergency call centre staff in Blackpool are taking more calls about children's bad behaviour than ever before and the things young people are getting up to are becoming surprisingly adult.

Police are called out after tourists spot a woman performing sexual acts on teenage boys under the pier on the beach, just yards from families on holiday. It turns out that she's been performing oral sex on the lads for five pounds a go.

PC Chris Hardy responds to a call from a terrified family who've had a brick thrown through their window and a gang of lads outside their house. The incident appears to have started when one boy called another ‘fat'.

When the police do track down Logan, the suspected 13-year-old brick thrower, he's abusive and tries to head-butt one of the officers, who have no choice but to take him to the station.

"I think some people do need to be more accountable for what their children are doing, they do need to actually know where they are and what they're doing," says PC Hardy "I don't think it's as simple as opening the door and letting the child go out and then letting them come back at ten, eleven at night."

Logan's mother, Tracy, explains the challenges modern parents face: "You can't make your kids do like everything that you could in the back days. I mean, when I was young I always got brought home by the police, faced my father and got punished," she says. "There are kids walking the street now at ten, eleven and police don't pick you up, they just let you walk."

Logan is sent home without charge. Even he thinks the punishment should be tougher.

But it's not only teenage boys who are ending up in the cells, girls are regular visitors too. 15-year-old Kayleigh has been arrested after pushing over a woman on a night out. But she refuses to be searched in the cells, screaming and swearing.

"She's not a bad person, she's just a teenager," says her mum, Tracey. "They have no respect for discipline. My mum would tell me to do something and I did it, whereas now I tell my children to do something and they are - you can't do that, you can't say this, you can't say that."

Meanwhile, when a resident finds a three-year-old boy called Sam walking barefoot and on his own down a back street he calls the police. PC Mark Glass is dispatched to question the boy, find out where he lives and where his parents are.

After a wild goose chase and a trip to the police station for the missing three-year-old, his frantic mother finally reports him missing an hour after he was found in the street. But when the police take Sam home they have concerns about the state of the house and lack of food for the little boy and his brothers.

In a busy holiday resort, children are regularly reported missing. PC Mike Ellis is sent to track down 12-year-old twin girls who've disappeared on the promenade after their father went drinking. The girls were playing on the beach, but now the tide's in and they're nowhere to be seen.

After a frantic search the girls turn up at their hotel and PC Ellis gives the parents a stern talking to.

Another mother has left her 6-month-old son in the care of two teenagers while she goes out on the town. The ambulance and police services are called out after the baby falls off a worktop and bumps his head and social services alerted.

A regular caller to 999 is Andrea, who has a drink problem. After her latest call to the emergency services - and concerned for her welfare - the control room dispatch PC Chris Hardy and an ambulance to her address.

Andrea is looked after by her teenage daughter, who also acts as a parent to her younger brother.

"You can't really understand why your mum's doing it to you," says Andrea's daughter. "You see other people's parents, you know, doing things for them and you just wonder why that it's not the same and question like why it's happening to you all the time."

"If adults want to beat themselves up or do horrible things to each other, that's their decision and I'll take the call, I'll send the cops, we'll get it dealt with," says police control operator Allan Shaw. "When the kids are involved, quite often after the call, it has to be time out.

"There's too many people that can't be bothered. They take parenting on, they have kids too easily but once you've got them you've got them for life and it's a responsibility that you can't shirk and people do."

Dir: Dave Hodgkinson

Series Prods: Daniel Fromm, Mark Jones

Exec Prods: Edmund Coulthard, Guy Davies, Simon Ford

Prod Co: Blast! Films

Programme 1, Monday 10th September, 9pm, Channel 4

In this week's programme, Blackpool's emergency services are tackling the fallout from the dizzying array of ‘party drugs' that are on the rise in towns across the UK.

One drug that's increasingly prevalent is Mephedrone - aka 'MCAT' or 'Meow Meow', although in Blackpool it's best known as 'Bubble'. Available on many street corners, you can get a hit of 'Bubble' for the price of a pint of beer - but it can have highly unpredictable effects.

Its use has really taken off in the last couple of years and it's adding an extra strain to the work of the emergency services already used to picking up the pieces from drugs and alcohol, with up to 1,000 calls on a busy Saturday night.

PC Kris Beasley, one of Blackpool's longest-serving beat cops, has seen it all, but he's increasingly facing the fallout from punters who are playing a chemical lottery on how they choose to get high.

"Once you've been exposed to it for a lengthy amount of time there's not much that shocks you. But the first time you deal with someone like that you don't really know what to expect," he says.

"The smell of ‘Bubble' is distinctive - it's horrible - you smell it once and you'll know straight away if you smell it again," says PC Beasley. "But in this day and age a lot of people ‘super-size' their nights out with party drugs of one description or another you've got to expect it."

"Bubble's a synthetic drug, it's probably the one that's most people go on about as being legal. But it's not, it's a Class B drug," says custody sergeant Lisa Dunne. "They're a nightmare to deal with. People can be horrible, nasty creatures when they come in. You don't know how something's going to affect somebody. Sometimes they'll come in fine, no issues, quite amenable, and they can just change and snap.

"You can tell straight away that they're on ‘Bubble' with their demeanour. When someone's kicking off they've got the strength of ten men and it might take quite a few people to restrain them. When you speak to them in the morning they can't remember. It's a crazy thing that someone will go and buy something when they don't know what it is, it could be anything. And people are after making a quick tenner and they're not bothered whether they sell something that's mixed with talcum powder, brick dust or anything else."

A man is brought into custody after exposing his penis at the train station. Suspecting he's been taking drugs, the police carry out a strip search: "He's got Bubble-it is," says Sgt Dunne.

Called to a house, police arrest one partygoer who tries to run away. In custody ‘Bubble' soon takes its toll and he has to get medical attention and be restrained for his own safety. Another reveller is brought in after refusing to pay his cab fare. And a pair of rowdy, naked squaddies are detained after their R&R gets out of hand.

PC Beasley is sent to stop a driver suspected of being under the influence of drink or drugs. It's a struggle to get the suspect - who refuses to be breathalysed - into custody. "Drug driving is madness," says PC Beasley. "Once you've seen the fall out - massive casualties or massive loss of life, ruined lives - it's not a matter of if, it's a matter of when someone's going to end up hurting somebody."

"It really surprised me when I started. I couldn't believe how much of our work was dealing with people with alcohol-related problems and drug-related problems," says Emergency Medical Technician Laura Dickinson.

Called out to a man who has reportedly overdosed on thirty prescription drugs, Laura and her crew mate paramedic Sue McGrath find he has become violent, threatening his landlady and trashing his flat. Sue calls for police backup and they bring the man into hospital.

"We're told not to be a hero and to get ourselves out of that situation," says Laura. "If you talk to other crews there have been times when crews have been held hostage. It then makes you very wary of approaching anywhere and trusting anybody.'

Even so, when the man apologises for the trouble he's caused and explains that his children won't speak to him and he's lost everything, Laura becomes more sympathetic as they take him to hospital.

Emergency Medical Technician Kiran brings a 17-year-old into A&E after he overdoses on a dozen valium and cannabis. "It's sad, he's 17, it's just such a waste of his life, isn't it?" she says.

Meanwhile, Fire control receives a report about a fire in a flat where drug addicts go to party. They arrive as the tenant returns home from a day out to find his flat burnt out.

It's an environment with particular risks: "You put the fire out and then one of the things you notice is orange caps off hypodermic needles and if you've gone in on your hands and knees and you notice that, you're thinking, I really hope I've not knelt on something like that.'

Finally custody regular Gavin has been arrested for assault and criminal damage, having taken street valium. He promptly urinates on the floor of his cell before settling down to sleep things off.

Having seen what she sees every weekend, Sgt Lisa Dunne's conclusion is clear:

"Would I touch drugs they use these days? No, never, absolutely no chance! The way I see people come in and the fact that they don't know what they're doing, the state they can get themselves in. Do I want to be lying in a pile of puke on a Saturday night, in custody? No, thank you!"

Dir: Toby Trackman

Series Prods: Daniel Fromm, Mark Jones

Exec Prods: Ed Coulthard, Guy Davies, Simon Ford

Prod Co: Blast! Films

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