What’s your emergency? It’s the new TV series we’re all talking about.
It started, this week, with a chap carrying a sofa on his back being asked by droll Blackpool bobby PC Kris Beasley if he had seen a man carrying a sofa on his back.
PC Beasley, 35, one of the resort’s longest-serving beat bobbies, is likely to become one of Britain’s best-known officers.
He’s already confessed to being a bit obsessive: “I stop short of turning baked bean tins round but I’m always on duty.”
He was back on patrol last night, taking brickbats and bouquets in his stride via Twitter and Channel Four’s comment site.
Officially, unavailable for comment. As the boss, Chief Supt Richard Debicki, stresses: “This is a show about all three emergency services.”
It delivered some great one-liners – ‘Do you spend your Saturday night sat in your own vomit, urine and worse, or watch X Factor?’
Custody sergeant Lisa Dunne gave us that line. Emergency service officers represent the ultimate reality TV line-up, helping process the debris and detritus of a drug culture in overdrive – but remembering the vulnerability, as well as the potential for violence of the people swept along in its wake.
Chief Supt Debicki hopes it will be a wake-up call for the rest of us on how prevalent so-called recreational drugs have become – and also just how many people of all kinds use and abuse the 999 system.
All three Fylde coast emergency services are represented in the new 10-part series, that’s not so much fly on the wall as fly squashed on the windscreen of emergency response vehicles.
Channel Four’s aim was to show the pressures on the 75-year-old BT-operated 999 emergency-only line, when many of the 31m calls a year are anything but emergencies.
Twitter users had 999: What’s Your Emergency trending seconds after the first stag was captured butt naked on the Prom and taken into custody.
By the time hens arrived carrying blow-up male bits, some wag had started a “what’s YOUR emergency” hashtag.
Opinions were polarised by the drink and drug excesses portrayed. “Who gave permission for this?” ranted one Tweeter.
Supt Debicki, a local lad himself, explains: “The reason we entered into it was because it focused on the work of the emergency services.
“It’s obviously set in Blackpool, but the challenges faced are the same the length and breadth of the country.
“There’s an alternative view about whether such things should be screened but, you know what, I think the local community wants to see the work their emergency services are involved in – and they want to see them as fierce protectors of Blackpool. And that’s how they came across.
“All the officers acquitted themselves well. They also showed humanity and humour.”
The human fall-out from drink and drug abuse was graphic. Paramedic Sue Marquis and emergency medical technician Laura Dickinson dealt with an aggressive drunk who wrecked his digs and threatened his landlady. They took a teenager high on drugs to hospital, too. “He’s only 17,” one observed. “This is no life.”
Dave Rigby, manager for Fylde’s ambulance service, says: “The series shows how traumatic our work can be. We also felt it might help educate the public to think, ‘why has someone called 999 for that?’ It’s recognition the service is under strain.”
Simon Bone, community manager for Blackpool and the Fylde’s fire and rescue service, added: “We play a significant part in keeping people safe. We need to be honest with the public, so they appreciate fully the challenges we face on a daily basis.
“You can talk about it, but when you see it in action you get the real sense it’s not easy for any of us. It just gets frustrating when you get called to turn a water tap off, or go on a roof to fix a loose tile.”