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A Safer Response: How Reveal’s Body-Worn Cameras Are Protecting Bristol Ambulance’s Crews

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A Safer Response: How Reveal’s Body-Worn Cameras Are Protecting Bristol Ambulance’s Crews

Paramedic Nick Brown was left unconscious with a broken eye socket at work, following an unprovoked attack from a member of the public.

The severity of this incident is shocking, but sadly not isolated: the AACE is recording 32 incidents of varying assaults towards ‘on the road’ staff every day. These statistics tell of a staggering 171% increase in such incidents over the past five years.

Ambulance staff have responded with a national campaign to stamp out these soaring case numbers with the launch of the #WorkWithoutFear campaign. And while awareness and education will be a great help in controlling behaviour, many trusts and services are looking to technology to expediate the solution.

In Brown’s case, it was his wearing of a body camera that provided the independent evidence to lead to a conviction (a 12-month sentence) in February this year.

Brown said at the trial, “Nobody should be frightened to do their job, especially in a caring profession. Sadly, we are often verbally abused, but thankfully physical abuse is less common, though it still happens. Body-worn cameras go a long way to reduce that risk.”

Bristol Ambulance agree. They had noticed the escalating levels of abuse colleagues were experiencing from the public - verbal and physical abuse, and aggression from people under the influence of drugs and alcohol.

They recognised that body cameras would be an excellent way to independently and fairly document incidents: In cases like Nick Brown’s they offer an unequivocal document of events, protecting the wearer from false accusations and offering robust evidence.

However, product designers at Reveal wanted to go beyond just evidence capture. They wanted to find a way to reduce incidents escalating to violence in the first place.

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Ambulance Crew Hero

What makes Reveal cameras unique is the incorporation of a front-facing screen; so when the camera is activated, the person being recorded in front of the camera can see what the lens is seeing.

Mike Jennings from Reveal explains: “Our front-facing screen is installed as standard on all our camera models because it is proven to de-escalate events, often before any physical aggression has taken place. When we are angry, or losing control, we are not ourselves, and so when we see that reaction presented back to us, most of us have the instinct to modify and control that behaviour.”

Bristol Ambulance’s Ryan Maunder explains: “The cameras are visible – you can see them on the uniform – so in my opinion, just their presence is enough to get some people to moderate their behaviour. However, there are studies that confirm people actually calm down much quicker when they can see an image of themselves on-screen. So the Reveal front-facing screen is a great design as it might help de-escalate events before any physical aggression has taken place.”

Reveal Account Manager, Gary Brown: “We gave the team at Bristol Ambulance Bristol a free 4-week trial of our D3 cameras. These are the cameras first designed for in-the-field police officers – so they are still lightweight. But they have a longer battery life; are suitable for all weather, they are tough; have an articulated camera head so you can wear them on your jacket, shoulder lapels, hat – lots of options. The footage is superb, and the front facing screen much larger than on our smaller cameras.”

Ryan agrees: “What we also liked about the D3 was its ability to pre-record. The cameras are so easy to activate – basically a big red switch – but in the heat of a quickly escalating incident it’s understandable that someone might “miss” the triggering behaviour of aggression. Reveal’s D3 actually pre-record up to 60 seconds of footage. It does it constantly but then deletes the material if the camera is not activated. But if the camera is, you know you have that minute running up to the incident securely documented, and that can be vital if this later becomes key evidence in a prosecution.”

The trial allowed Bristol Ambulance crews to use the cameras in live situations - ensuring day and night shifts would have the same level of service.

On-site and remote training sessions were run with Reveal for staff, covering camera usage, software, GDPR compliance, and accessing the encrypted footage in emergency situations.

Working in the IT department, Ryan was also looking for a solution to evidence management:

“The potential to de-escalate was really attractive to us, but there will be incidents where we need to help the police follow up on incidents of abuse and violence against our staff. I really liked Reveal’s DEMs 360 software as it makes the process of uploading footage to our cloud storage really simple for the crew back at base; they plug it into the special docking station to charge and the camera software does the rest. It ensures access to the encrypted content is only available to assigned administrators.

And of course, while they have the power to redact or blur some material – say faces or number plates if sharing material with police or CPS – that video material is encrypted. No one can edit or manipulate it.”

When the trial proved a success, Ryan’s team went ahead and ordered 24 body-worn cameras enabling all their paramedic crews to have access to one. The wearing of the cameras is not mandatory, but every member of the crews have chosen to use them consistently.

Ryan again; “The crews have taken really well to them. I am not surprised: the cameras feel really good in your hand. People like having them. In fact, the Reveal user experience has been well thought out, which makes the cameras a pleasure to use in the field, or back at base.”

Why Bristol Ambulance chose to partner with Reveal:

  • Reveal cameras are easy to use, reducing the need for training and boosting user confidence.
  • The front-facing screen is proven to de-escalate incidents.
  • Excellent recording quality, even in low light conditions, so consistently reliable and robust evidence.
  • The Reveal D3 camera is ideal for all-weather use with a rugged waterproof casing.
  • A battery/recording capacity that enables long, and often unpredictable, shifts to be fully covered.
  • Docking the unit for charging and upload is straightforward and intuitive.

D3 cameras specifications:

  • 32GB memory
  • Large front-facing screens
  • Articulated camera head
  • Rugged casing
  • Ultra low light capable
  • 12-hour battery – footage recorded at 720p, with a screen on.
  • 14-hour battery – footage recorded at 480p, with the screen off.