999 workers describe the camaraderie of working on Christmas Day

25 December 2021, 08:30 | Updated: 25 December 2021, 08:47

Ellie and Amit are working Christmas Day
Ellie and Amit are working Christmas Day. Picture: Alamy

By Will Taylor

Not everyone will be reuniting with families this Christmas Day - Britain's 999 heroes will giving up their festivities to make sure everyone else is safe.

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Paramedics and firefighters are just some of those who will be at the ready when others are swapping gifts by the tree.

Student paramedic Ellie Skinner, based out of Putney, has spent five Christmases now with the emergency ambulance service.

"I'm on Christmas Eve night and Christmas Day night," she told LBC.

"I've always been on night shift. So I've never done the day shift. It's just the way my rota falls."

Her callouts on the day itself can be anything from serious incidents to more trivial Christmas-related issues.

"You often get people overindulge obviously, and they get stomach pains and stuff like that, or elderly people that don't normally eat quite as much as they do on Christmas Day and tend to overdo it a bit.

"We do tend to see with children that eat way too much sugar and their parents are worried why they're not going to sleep and running around a bit crazy sometimes.

"But other than that, just the normal day to day things - chest pain, difficulty breathing, up to obviously the more serious things, car crashes and things like that."

She will spend Christmas with her crewmates - who she describes as her best friends.

"During the day the managers come in early and make everyone a bacon sandwich and a fry up for breakfast which is nice of them and then it's just like a normal working day for us," Ellie said.

"I think the daytime can tend to be a little bit quieter than the nighttime but during the nighttime we'll just come into work, do checks on the ambulance and make sure we've got everything ready.

"I always take in a ton of food. I've already taken in loads of Christmas cakes. I've just baked a Christmas flapjack and I've always taken a cheese board and a bottle of non alcoholic Prosecco to share with our colleagues."

Firefighter Amit Malde, who works for the London Fire Brigade and covers the north-west of the capital, says crews on shift on Christmas Day will be ready to respond. He's already done two Christmas shifts in his nine years in the job.

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"We have a sort of unwritten rule in the brigade where the governor, the person in charge of the watch, will do what we call the watchroom duties or the duty person role.

β€œAnd that's just basically dealing with a little bit of admin to do with routines, and if we get a call, if we get a shout, they need to do things like brief the driver.

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"That's a role that every day is assigned to one of the firefighters and just as a tradition that's usually gone down to the governor [on Christmas]."

Throughout the day, it'll be common to see firefighters FaceTiming their children and loved ones as they clock off or start their shift. Those working on the day will enjoy a Christmas meal together.

The shouts Amit has had on Christmas, though, can be more unusual than a roast dinner-gone-wrong or faulty fairy lights sparking a blaze.

"I remember my first year we had we go to a barbecue on a balcony in a block of flats.

"It must have been like the third floor of like a high rise or something, obviously wasn't very safe.

"So we were there at lunchtime. And then a few minutes before the end of the shift… we heard a big bang and we looked out and a drunk driver and crashed into a sign [near] our station."

Ellie is no stranger to shift work, with her partner serving in the police.

Her Christmas plan is to come back from work and go to bed, hoping that at some point he comes off shift and makes her a cup of tea.

She said: "I do feel a bit sad to be missing out on seeing family and stuff, but I always think there's other people that I work with that have children and I always think if I applied for annual leave that then they would miss out and they wouldn't get to see their children on Christmas Day.

"So for the moment, I'm more than happy to work. And then if there comes a stage that me and my partner have children and we both need annual leave, I hope our colleagues would do the same for us.

"But there's plenty of other opportunities throughout the year to catch up with families and FaceTime is a Godsend."

She added: "I think what I take from the year is to value how much family and friends mean.

"I certainly wouldn't have been able to get through the whole pandemic without my old crewmate, who's now gone back to Australia.

"So I think taking away how much family and friends do mean, not to take people for granted.

"Especially people that have lost loved ones throughout the whole thing. I think that really highlights to people how precious life is.

"And I think just highlighting the work that all the NHS do and all the emergency services do at such a time in need. I think people have kind of realised not to take it quite as for granted."