What Happens When You Dial 999
"Handling 8,000 emergency 999 calls every week…"
It's main tasks of masterminding all telephone contact between the public and police, and managing the Force's response to incidents around the clock, makes Communications Division the very hub of West Yorkshire Police.
In an average week, the division deals with about 8000 emergency 999 calls, some 15,000 non-emergency calls, and with roughly 14,000 incidents, of which about a quarter require an immediate response. In an average month, the division will handle about 70,000 Police National Computer transactions and deal with more than 50,000 internal calls.
Despite constant efforts to remind the public that the 999 system should only be used for emergencies, the latest figures show that around two thirds of 999 calls to the Force do not require an immediate response.
Customer Contact Centre - an Emergency Call Centre, Crime Recording Bureau and Switchboard in one. staffed by expert operators dealing with all calls into the Force including the new non-emergency 101 number.
Despatch Centres - 8 Despatch centres 1 situated within each Division in the Force and dealing with Officer deployment either to emergencies or planned appointments.
Force Control – a dedicated despatch centre situated in Wakefield and dealing with the deployment of the Force Helicopter, Dogs, Armed Response units and Underwater Search Teams for example, as well as Motorway units
Eastern Area Despatch Centre (EADC) - based in Leeds and Western Area Despatch Centre (WADC) - based in Bradford. The ADCs receive logs and despatch resources on a divisional basis. They deal with follow-up calls from the public waiting for officers to attend, calls from divisions requesting the despatch of officers, and also run special operations rooms for serious or large incidents.
Spotlight on a Communications Operator
What are the main challenges you face in your role?
Handling 999 and non-emergency calls, I will often be a vital lifeline to people who may be scared and in a real state of panic, even abusive and sometimes all three. Whatever call I deal with I need to be able to calmly assess the situation following set procedures, prioritise people’s needs and gain the key information from them, which allows us to react accordingly. So I need to see the whole picture, correctly recording this, not becoming fixated with one bit of information.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
Having the colleagues I do both within the room and outside. The variety of work that I deal with - no day is the same. When colleagues outside and inside have all worked together and attained a positive outcome at the end of an incident this is greatly rewarding for me.
What do you find the least enjoyable aspect?
Some people will ring us when they wish to report something or ask a question that is not a police matter at all. This is so frustrating and a waste because they take up call handler time on the phones which someone in real need could use.
What first attracted you to working in this area?
My previous jobs for almost 5 years were in car and pet insurance and vehicle breakdown cover, but this was not really rewarding or a progressive job. Initially I would have liked to have joined West Yorkshire Police as a police officer, but found they were not recruiting at the time. I therefore decided to do the next best thing and work as a member of Police Staff, offering support to officers on the streets. The Call Handler role gives me a great insight into police work and is a personally rewarding job. I feel personal satisfaction knowing I have helped someone at the end of a call.
If you could change one thing, what would it be?
If I was able to change any one thing, it would be to increase recruitment in the Communications Division and on the streets to meet our ever increasing demand.
How do you feel at the end of a busy shift?
I normally leave feeling quite tired, as do most operators here, and, after busy periods, quite wrung out. Alongside that I invariably leave with a sense of satisfaction. During a shift I will have dealt with some issue or problem, which has given me personal satisfaction, such as giving members of the public information which as helped them or gaining information from them which has led to a good arrest.
What makes a good Call Handler?
Remaining calm at all times. Always being polite to your colleagues, the general public and any other agencies you have contact with. Being able to multi-task. Being alert at all times. Understanding what our colleagues on the streets have to deal with and helping them by getting the correct information from callers so officers can deal with the job safely and effectively.
Do you think people inside and outside the Force understand what you do?
I believe some people inside understand what we do, but you usually find they are the ones that have spent a day or two with us. Many members of the general public do not understand what we do. A lot still think that when they ring 999 they get put through to their local police station and always expect you to know where they are, who the officer is they wish to speak to, and whether they are working or not at that time.
What do you do to relax/unwind?
I find it quite easy to relax/unwind. I have a good social life and have a number of hobbies that keep me occupied.