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Providing a safe haven for Christmas revellers

WITH Christmas just days away, office parties and festive reunions among friends are in full swing, with thousands of revellers packing the country's pubs and bars.

While the intention is to have a good time, things often go wrong: slips and falls, bumps and bruises, missed trains, lost keys, heated arguments, thefts, fights and people separated from friends.

With the emergency services stretched, the Red Cross SOS bus in Glasgow offers a helping hand, providing sanctuary and a safe haven from the mayhem of the city streets. Staffed by volunteers, among those on board is Allyson Harris, 26, who regularly works into the wee hours assisting those in distress.

She says: "Stepping on to the bus, it's impossible to know what the night will bring at this time of year. I've dealt with everything from cut fingers to a woman who went into labour at a taxi rank.

"I've been a Red Cross volunteer for five years and have worked on the bus since it came into service last December. I know that many women my age are more typically out with their mates on Friday and Saturday nights, but I get to help people and use skills I wouldn't have if I was out partying every weekend.

"There was one woman who broke her ankle and suffered a dislocated shoulder after falling in the street. On another evening a heavily pregnant woman came to the door of the bus experiencing contractions. We brought her on board, monitored her blood pressure and made her comfortable until the ambulance arrived to take her to hospital. We are trained in emergency childbirth but, thankfully, on this occasion we didn't need to use it.

"People can be extremely upset by the time they reach us. There was a young woman recently who was in Glasgow with her brother to go to a gig. They became separated and by the time she was found by our mobile unit was quite distressed. She was lost and had missed the last train home.

"We managed to find her brother and bring him to the bus to be reunited. It turned out he had been assaulted. Once he'd had first aid we contacted their mother who came to pick them up.

"Through the bus we have helped reunite other missing persons with their families too. One was a vulnerable 16-year-old woman and another a man suffering from mental health problems. In both cases volunteers recognised them from flyers distributed by the police.

"On board we carry a full first aid kit and defibrillator as well as blankets. There is a separate area for medical treatment and one where people can wait for taxis, call family to pick them up, charge their mobile phones or simply stay warm.

"We work closely with the Glasgow Council for Alcohol, which has support workers on board the bus, while the police relay information about any incidents that may be happening in the city centre.

"The key advice I would give to people going out is to dress for the weather, prearrange a meeting spot with friends and write down important contact numbers to keep separate from your mobile phone.

"If you do need help, we are here."

The SOS bus is on Gordon Street, beside Glasgow Central Station, every Friday and Saturday night, from 10pm to 4am

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