Sunderland’s peak time for drunken disasters

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New Year’s Eve celebrations are just around the corner and our emergency services are 
bracing themselves for a hectic time. Cara Houchen reports.

NEW year is traditionally a time to celebrate with a drink or two – but it can cause a huge strain on the emergency services.

As revellers welcomed in 2012 emergency services across the region were stretched to the limit.

The ambulance service, police officers and even the voluntary Street Pastors were left to pick up the pieces as party-goers drinking to excess suffered the consequences.

On December 31, 2011, the North East Ambulance Service took 2,020 calls and on January 1, 2012 they received 2,812 calls – their normal daily average is in the region of 750.

Paul Liversidge, director of operations, said: “Traditionally New Year is the busiest period of the year for the North East Ambulance Service.

“There’s nothing wrong with people celebrating at this time of year, but all we would ask is that they do it sensibly.”

The busiest period of last New Year’s Eve was between midnight and 3am, when they handled 758 calls – effectively a normal day’s worth of calls in just three hours.

Paul said: “It’s important for us to keep as many crews and vehicles available as possible, to attend people who are in genuine, life-threatening situations.

“Most incidents involving alcohol can be avoided – people who drink to excess put an extra strain on the service we provide.

“By all means people should enjoy themselves – but I’d urge them to think carefully before dialing 999; have a proper meal before going out; keep an eye on friends and plan your journey home.”

Northumbria Police are also urging people to stay safe.

With the increase of visitors to the city centre comes the potential for alcohol-related disorder and there will be extra officers out on patrol ready to respond to any issues or incidents.

They will be speaking with revellers, patrolling bars and working with doorstaff and barstaff to ensure that there are no problems or issues.

Anyone found causing problems or committing offences will be dealt with firmly and those out celebrating are urged to stay in control.

“We want people to enjoy their holidays and enjoy the night-life that the city centre has to offer – but they must do so sensibly and responsibly,” says Sunderland Chief Insp George Maratty.

“Officers will be out patrolling the busiest areas and helping people enjoy their nights out.

“We want people to have a good time but we will take action where we see disorder or trouble.

“People need to be aware of their limits when it comes to alcohol and stay in control when on a night out.”

COLIN FOZZARD and his team are on the front line when it comes to dealing with drunk men and women during the festive period and all year round.

They are Sunderland’s voluntary Street Pastors and they have been lending a hand since 2010.

In that time they have helped hundreds of revellers who have got themselves into difficulties.

“We want people to feel safe in the city centre,” said Colin. “New Year’s Eve is no different to any other night for us, although there may be more people in the city the incidents are still the same.

“The majority of the people we help are affected by excessive alcohol. They are so drunk the can’t find their way home or they get separated from friends and become isolated and vulnerable.”

The Street Pastors were set up by a group of churches in Sunderland as a church initiative. They now have 42 volunteers who are there to listen and help people.

They are part of the Sunderland Safer Partnership so they work closely with door staff, taxi marshals and the police, who they rely heavily on for support.

Colin, from Fulwell, said: “We are there in a non-judgmental way. We deal with anybody in difficulty which is usually caused through alcohol.

“It may be something as simple as putting someone in a taxi, telephoning their friends and family to get them home or giving basic first aid.

“A lot of the people we come across have lost handbags with their phones, credit cards and keys inside. This makes them very vulnerable.”

Colin added: “Enjoy the festivities, be sensible and make sure 2013 starts in a safe way not in a way that you’ll come to regret.”

For more information on the Street Pastors go to www.sunderland.streetpastors.org.uk or call 0191 566 2677

Street Pastors’ top tips for staying safe:

•Always make provisions to get home.

•Be sensible and keep your valuables 
 safe.

•If you are on a budget make sure you 
 leave enough money for the end of the 
 night to get a taxi home.

•Enjoy yourselves but drink in 
 moderation.

•Don’t go off on your own – stay with 
 your friends.

•f you need help, ask for it.