One of the perks of this job is the need to cover football games. Well…it's a perk if you enjoy seeing your local team play, personally I can't stand football – but overtime is overtime, and it does make a nice change to the usual jobs I go to. So this Sunday I got to see West Ham play against Derby.
The L.A.S. provide 'Major Incident' cover for these games, we don't look at sprained ankles or minor injuries (for that is the job of the St Johns ambulance). We also don't look after the players who get hacked down and are unable to walk, only to watch them turning somersaults a scant five minutes later when their team scores a goal (that is a job for the private medical firms).
So, unless a stand collapses, there is a major fire, a bomb goes off or someone drops dead in front of us, there is very little we have to do. At the West Ham ground (my local football club), there are four 'road crew' present, along with at least one major incident support vehicle, one radio operator and an officer. The road crew sit down near the pitch, while the officer and radio operator sit in a V.I.P. box overlooking the whole ground.
Today I was given the role of “safety officer”, which doesn't mean I've been promoted – it just means that in the event of a major incident, I'm supposed to watch out for the safety of the ambulance crews present, liaise with the Police and Fire Service about any hazards that might be a problem, and to make sure that any crews that attend the incident aren't getting too stressed. I also have to talk to the person in overall control at the incident about any issues within this sphere that may occur.
We were warned that there was an increased chance of violence at this match because some hooligan 'supporters' are appearing before the magistrate tomorrow – and that some of their 'crew' might want to cause some trouble. Luckily for us, that wasn't to happen despite a 2-1 loss.
It was really cold down there in the stands, I had my undershirt, shirt, body armour, fleece and Hi-visibility all weather jacket on – but I was still freezing. Anyone listening carefully as I walked around trying to keep warm would have heard a clink-clink-clink-clink sound as my frozen balls knocked together.
As I've mentioned before, I'm not a huge fan of football (overpaid idiots, getting paid more in a week than I get paid in a year, booting around a plastic ball) – so I spent most of the match listening to The Magnetic Fields on my smart-phone, while stamping around trying to get some sensation back in my toes
As a quick aside, who needs an iPod Shuffle? My smart-phone can do the same thing and more – it can even make phone calls…
Half time came and went so we joined the St Johns ambulance for a cup of tea and a sandwich, rather than watch a bunch of scantily clad young women prance about. Then we were back in the cold – where I tried to stay awake while West Ham, perhaps predictably lost…
With the exception of someone having a crafty cigarette and setting off a fire alarm, it all went rather smoothly. I did find it funny that the people in the stadium knew what the “Inspector Sands” announcement meant, and did nothing but laugh quietly at it.
At the end of the match we have to stay around until we are 'stood down', essentially when the last few supporters are leaving – so we sat in the ambulance, with the heater going, wrapped in our own blankets (and remember – we know what those blankets have been wrapped around, yet we still used them – that is how cold it was).
We then started making our way back to station…
…only to come across a policeman who had tried to stop a car – only to have them speed up (possibly accidentally) and hit him. He wasn't especially badly hurt, but we took all precautions as we transported him to hospital. He'll need a few x-rays, but I suspect that he will be fine.
Now I'm sitting in my flat, waiting for tomorrow's night shift, at the end of which, I shall know how my secret plan is to unfold…