The last eight weeks has placed significant demands on the UK emergency services, driven by a multitude of political, cultural, meteorological and societal pressures.
Specifically, the US President – Donald Trump – made his first visit to the UK, stirring up mass-demonstrations; the England football team took part in a most-successful tournament; and the country experienced its hottest summer in decades. Large-scale public events including Pride and a number of festivals were also on the cards, and finally, our services faced another biological weapon attack.
Collectively, these events have hugely drawn across multiple emergency services’ and security organisations’ resources. Let’s look at some examples and recognise the effort and commitment across our services in their response to each.
Despite the fact a number of ‘High Impact’ venues – including Buckingham Palace, Downing Street and Parliament – were not included in the visit, the Metropolitan Police retained considerable input and delivered major resourcing.
Indeed, the selected venues were already highly-protected buildings with 24/7 protocols for security already in place, which helped to reduce additional impact and resource on the emergency services.
- Over 4,000 officers were mobilised to support in the areas Trump visited
- The UK Government created a dedicated policing planning team led by the Metropolitan Police alongside Thames Valley, Police Scotland and the UK and US Secret Services
- The visit saw the biggest police operation since the 2011 riots
- The emergency response for the visit cost approximately £8 million
- More mutual aid was deployed than for the London 2012 Olympics
- All 43 police forces were involved in the visit
The World Cup
Taking place during the same period, the World Cup too had the potential to hugely increase demand on our emergency services. This had to be planned for: in addition to the traditional public-house venues for fans to watch matches, some football stadiums were open for screening games, as were multiple outdoor screens set-up across many major cities.
There was the potential for significant public unrest based upon previous tournaments and therefore resources needed to be deployed in the correct way to deal with any problems, particularly in major cities.
Aside from expected violence from inebriated fans, unfortunately it has been proved that domestic abuse escalates during tournaments of this kind and therefore the emergency services need to be prepared. Research from Lancaster University in 2013 found that domestic violence rose by 38% when the England team lost games in major tournaments.
And sadly, the potential for public unrest became reality. For example, Derbyshire Constabulary broke its record twice for incident volumes in a 24-hour period –handling 25% more than on New Year and Christmas Eve.
Warwickshire Police also saw an increase in calls around match times (+18%) and West Midlands Ambulance Service faced a barrage of calls after the semi-final whistle blew, reporting unprecedented increases in assaults, road-traffic collisions, drink-related and domestic violence incidents.
And, according to reports following England’s win against Sweden, police said there were 387 incidents across the country leading to 70 arrests
To help manage this surge in demand, various services across the country took to social media to get the message across to fans to behave responsibly. This proactive approach to reduce impact by raising awareness is to be commended – like the example above.
The ongoing UK heatwave has had a significant impact on all of our emergency services, from 999 calls about dogs and children being left in cars, to wildfires and incidents in lochs, reservoirs, lakes and rivers.
Wildfires in grassy areas has become a particular priority for fire, ambulance and police services during the past two months.
The two largest fires, which were declared major incidents and both burned over seven square miles, broke out on Saddleworth Moor in Greater Manchester and on Winter Hill in Lancashire. A six-fold increase in grass fires has been recorded this year in London, where 260 firefighters were forced to deal with blazes on a single night.
Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service also reported huge increase in demand, reporting its highest number of 999 calls in two years.
And further afield, we've seen teams of firefighters battling against the wild fires in California. It's been report, that sadly four brave firefighters have lost their lives trying to control the fire.
In response, fire crews have been proactive in managing the public, issuing advice on fire safety – well done to all involved.
Increasing temperatures have also increased waterside activities. Councils and fire services are urging everybody to be vigilant to the dangers of drowning, especially parents with children. The Irish Coast Guard was called out to 76 incidents in just five days, and in the UK, coastguards are pleading with sun-seekers not to use giant inflatables after 15 people were injured in one day.
Data from the London Metropolitan Police, which provides the most detailed month-by-month breakdown, does seem to support a link between hot weather and crime.
Between April 2010 and June 2018, violent crime was on average 14% higher when the temperature was above 20C than when it was below 10C.
Harassment and weapons possession offences were each 16% higher.
While violent crimes increase, other crimes actually appear to decrease when it's warmer. Looking at the Metropolitan Police statistics again, it seems there are about 20% fewer burglaries when temperatures are above 20C than when they are below 10C.
Amesbury poisonings in Wiltshire
As well as the high-profile events already mentioned, significant police and counter terrorism resources were deployed to investigate the poisoning of two more people with novichok biological weapon.
Well over 100 officers were deployed to investigate. These investigations are being led by the Metropolitan Police alongside Wiltshire Police, supported by specialist including Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) trained specialists.
Counter terrorism officers as well as murder investigators have had to carry out investigations across multiple locations to locate clues and gather information as to how the couple were poisoned and to establish whether there were links to the previous poisoning in Salisbury.
Investigations are still ongoing and continue to be a significant demand on resources.
Festivals & events
The emergency services played a key role in the Pride parades this summer, with up to one million people gathers in London alone – the demand on resource was extremely high.
Not only do the emergency services plan and resource security at the events, they also participate heavily. A fire engine and an ambulance were decorated in the rainbow colours, along with police offices marching in the York Pride 2018.
Likewise, in London almost 200 members of the emergency services took part in the event – representing the LGBT Network. And saw the, brigade’s ‘pride themed’ fireboat join the Royal Navy fast patrol ship fleet.
Thank you to our #UnsungHeroes
It’s clear exactly why we’ve seen such heavy demands on the UK emergency services over the course of recent weeks – from President Trump’s visit, to the World Cup and the wonderful British summer. Throw into the mix a series of festivals and events, as well as a major incident in the form of a biological attack.
The statistics and feedback from our colleagues demonstrate that this demand has been real – and it has put additional strain on staff, systems and entire services.
However, the important takeaway here is that these teams, all over the country, across multiple agencies, never waiver and always support each other to deliver what’s needed. Not only that, but they’re proactive in educating society about what they can do to help. It’s for these reasons that we’re truly grateful to our #UnsungHeroes and want to say #ThankYou for keeping us safe in what has been one of the most demanding periods in emergency services’ history.
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