The Saint Lucia Fire Service (SLFS) has appealed for an end to violence and careless use of the roads during the festive season and beyond.
Violent crimes and road accidents have taken a toll on the department’s workforce and resources.
The SLFS responded to 15 000 ambulance calls in 2021, compared to 13 623 the previous year.
And officials told St Lucia Times that the 2022 figure is higher than in previous years.
Acting Deputy Fire Chief Ditney Downes has appealed, especially to individuals between the ages of 18-35, whom he described as a ‘vulnerable group’, to find alternative ways of resolving conflicts and not resort to violence.
Downes also disclosed that there had been an ‘exponential increase’ in road accidents, including collisions involving motorcycles.
“We get them almost daily, and most times, more than one victim is involved, and we have to deploy multiple ambulances from different stations,” the senior SLFS official told St Lucia Times.
Downes explained that violent incidents and road accidents had created a big challenge for emergency responders.
He disclosed that although the SLFS welcomed 40 recruits last week, they were not additions but replacements for individuals who left the service.
Downes told St Lucia Times that the SLFS last had a human resources increase between 2006 – 2007 for Cricket World Cup.
“We continue to struggle with manpower issues and our responses have increased tremendously,” he stated.
Apart from that, Downes noted that responding to violent crime psychologically impacts emergency personnel, creating a need for counselling.
“Our absenteeism and sick leave are on the rise and these officers are young. We have young officers in the department average age 27,” he disclosed.
Downes said the SLFS has appealed to the Ministry of Home Affairs to get a full-time counsellor in-house for the protective services to help employees cope with their mental health issues due to the daily carnage they witness.
Headline photo: Emergency responders at Rodney Bay accident scene (September 2022).