Joburg's emergency workers to get panic buttons and police escorts

02 July 2019 - 14:10 By timeslive
Crew in this newly delivered City of Johannesburg ambulance came under attack in Cosmo City on June 29 2019.
Crew in this newly delivered City of Johannesburg ambulance came under attack in Cosmo City on June 29 2019.
Image: Joburg Public Safety via Twitter

Panic buttons and police escorts are being rolled out to protect emergency workers in Johannesburg, after an ambulance crew and fire fighters came under attack in a spate of recent criminal acts.

Michael Sun, the member of the mayoral committee for public safety, said the department has activated a contingency plan to deal with attacks on its firefighters, emergency medical technicians and paramedics.

Members of the Jabulani fire station were attacked in the early hours of Monday, he said.

An ambulance crew was also attacked in Cosmo City at the weekend, leading to a temporary withdrawal of the ambulance services to the area. 

Sun described the Cosmo City attack: "When the crew arrived at the scene and attempted to provide medical treatment to the injured person, the ambulance crew was confronted by a mob. 

"The patient was allegedly injured as a result of a mob justice assault. The mob turned on the EMS ambulance crew when they saw the crew trying to 'rescue' the injured person whom they regard as the suspect.

"The crew was able to retreat from the scene unharmed but were traumatised. The city's new ambulance, delivered just eight days prior, was damaged in the process."

"... In light of the attack on the ambulance crew at Cosmo City, we are now screening calls coming from these hotspots.

"If the call is to attend to a volatile situation or suspicious caller that cannot give us a precise location or description of the emergency, we will deploy the necessary resources to be escorted by the metro police and/or SAPS. Each call will be assessed individually accordingly to merits, type and level of emergency.

"We want to ensure both the safety of our residents and our EMS members. We will not risk the safety of our EMS members in favour of possible fake calls and volatile situations without police escort."

Sun said while the city wanted to ensure that "service levels are not impacted, we do expect possible delays in dispatching ambulances to Cosmo City due to the precautionary measures and the damaged ambulance having gone for repairs".

Outlined are some of the security measures that have been introduced over the past year and some that are about to be implemented, Sun said:

  • The department has installed panic buttons on city ambulances;
  • EMS members were provided with self-defence training and pepper spray "as a preferred device to deter attackers";
  • JMPD will escort ambulances and fire engines to emergency calls from volatile areas and hotspots;
  • Emergency calls from identified hotpots will be screened to reduce fake calls where there is a suspicion of potential risk.

Sun appealed to community leaders to help ensure the safety of emergency services teams.

"It is EMS's legislative and moral mandate to attend and treat any injured person whether such person is a victim of a motor vehicle accident or suspect of a crime," said Sun.

"These servicemen and women of EMS are trained professionals and highly valued employees of the city. We as the community must provide them with a safe environment so they can carry out their duties."