A nationwide reporting system for violence against rescue workers has been tested in North Rhine-Westphalia since the beginning of 2022. David Marten, 37, is project manager at the "Innovative Reporting and Recording System for Violent Assaults" and department head at the Ratingen fire brigade.
WORLD: Mr. Marten, when it comes to violence against rescue workers, the attacks on New Year's Eve are the most spectacular example. What is everyday life like?
David Marten: The incidents in Berlin are not a typical example. Rather, the data that we have collected so far indicates that in most cases, that is, in 80 to 90 percent, the violence comes from the patient. It can also be an exceptional psychological situation. Alcohol or drug use is also common.
WORLD: Has the problem gotten bigger?
Marten: That's hard to say. There are impressions from those affected and a perceived truth that the problem is getting bigger, but we lack numbers and data. When I started at the fire brigade in Düsseldorf in 2016, there were serious individual cases and we asked ourselves what measures we could take. At that time, the call for better equipment and stab-proof protective vests quickly came.
But we had no knowledge of how big the problem actually is. The available statistics do not bear this out. We need to be able to record cases of disrespect, verbal, physical violence, attempted bodily harm in a low-threshold manner so that the services can respond appropriately. These are isolated cases, but we cannot accept that our emergency services are exposed to such attacks, some of which are serious.
WORLD: You are leading a nationwide unique pilot project with a special reporting system, the "Innovative Reporting and Recording System for Violent Assaults". What can this program do?
Marten: The IMEG has existed since January 1, 2022 for currently 14 districts and urban districts. It is a web-based solution and can be used with any end device in the rescue and fire service, from PCs to smartphones. The main thing is that we make it as easy as possible for emergency services, especially after an incident. The effort for a report is very low. The data can later be transferred to other documents and processed by other departments.
The emergency services then do not even have to file a criminal complaint themselves if the incident is serious, such as bodily harm. At some point it should also be possible to automatically report an accident to the accident insurance company. This simplification should also increase the motivation of those affected to report and make it easier for the agency to support the employee after an assault.
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WORLD: How differentiated is this system?
Marten: The more serious the incident, the more detailed the request. The emergency services can even indicate on a scale of ten how much they feel affected. There is also an interview guide for post-deployment follow-up. Our aim is to use statistics to increase prevention for the emergency services. If we know when, where and why violence takes place, we can better prepare emergency services for it.
WORLD: What can be determined after a year of trial operation?
Marten: The number of reports of violent incidents has increased month by month. There were a total of 200 reports in 2022. In detail you can see how serious the incidents were. The individual data are currently being processed.
What can already be said is that there is a large proportion of physical violence, such as punches against emergency services or spitting on them. In a quarter of these cases, the responder was injured. Reading the individual reports makes you queasy.
WORLD: Do you see differences between city and country?
Marten: Big cities like Duisburg and Krefeld are taking part in the project, but also rural areas like the districts of Minden-Lübbecke and Höxter. In general, one hears that everything is peaceful in the country, but that's not the case. There is also violence against rescue workers in rural areas. This is an important finding.
WORLD: Will the reporting system be introduced nationwide?
Marten: The pilot project runs until June 30th this year and we hope that we can continue and expand it to all of North Rhine-Westphalia. Then we would get a timely overview for the entire federal state. Most studies that look at violence against emergency responders look back in time. By gathering and analyzing the latest news, we can get a more accurate picture.
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