They move quietly and inconspicuously amid the hustle and bustle of the Global Village, but their protective presence is felt nonetheless.
The men and women of the Department of Health and Medical Services ambulance service are on constant alert. They stand by, ready to come to the aid of any of the more than six million people expected to visit the Global Village during the Dubai Shopping Festival (DSF).
Twenty-seven emergency medical technicians (EMTs) were on duty during DSF's opening ceremony. On the first day of the festival, the four health clinics around the Global Village handled 22 cases. The incidents requiring intervention by EMTs have been quite minor so far, said Nazih Ataya, an emergency medical instructor. "An Egyptian performer set to take part in the opening ceremony twisted his ankle before the show. We treated him onsite and advised him to pull out of the show, but he went on anyway," Ataya said.
"When he came off the stage, his ankle was severely inflamed. We were ready for him. Injuries here are limited to cuts, twisted ankles and nausea. Food allergies can be a problem. With so many new foods to try out, sometimes people don't know what they are eating or how they'll react," he said.
The emergency health care plan at the Global Village was coordinated two weeks prior to the opening, he said. "We carried out a study of the site and determined where to position our stations. We want the plan to run smoothly," he said.
The emergency team includes male and female paramedics. It is one of the few emergency teams in the UAE to have female EMTs. Women joined the emergency team two years ago. They have an important role treating female visitors who require attention, but who do not wish to be treated by male EMTs.
It is vital to have women to treat other women, said Sheeja Shavanas, a female EMT. "It is very important because this is a Muslim country and the women prefer female staff. They are happy to see us and to be able to talk to us. They may feel uncomfortable being seen by a man," she said.
The main Global Village health clinic has four rooms and can accommodate up to 40 people in a crisis. The teams work from 3pm to 3am. Some team members have complained about the cold temperatures during the shift. The clinics are fully equipped to treat all kinds of complaints, but truly serious cases are sent to local hospitals.
The technicians travel between pavilions on foot. They also have a golfcart-type vehicle with space for four people plus a stretcher. "We are expecting two more carts. We need them because this is one of the busiest sites of the DSF and we need to access people quickly," said Ataya.
"Our response time is between three and seven minutes. Getting through the crowds is hard because people walk slowly. We don't put the siren on because we don't want to start a panic. Sometimes one of us has to climb out of the buggy and ask people to move if they don't hear the horn. Generally the public cooperates. We want people to like us," said Ataya.