‘Vital role’ of call handlers recognised

The first awards to recognise and celebrate the “extraordinary work of individuals and teams in emergency services control rooms” are to be held next year. They are being launched by mission-critical specialists APD Communications, which says the awards will recognise the achievements of control room staff in their day-to-day duties, often dealing with harrowing and distressing situations.

Nov 29, 2017

The first awards to recognise and celebrate the “extraordinary work of individuals and teams in emergency services control rooms” are to be held next year. They are being launched by mission-critical specialists APD Communications, which says the awards will recognise the achievements of control room staff in their day-to-day duties, often dealing with harrowing and distressing situations. APD Communications managing director Mike Isherwood said: “These awards are about publicly acknowledging the amazing people who work in emergency and critical control rooms everywhere. They play a vital role in keeping members of the public safe and their work often saves lives. “We see first-hand the extraordinary work of individuals and teams in emergency services control rooms and in critical operations across the public and private sectors and we felt we should do something to recognise their vital contribution. “The awards will thank them for the outstanding and unseen work they do, day in, day out.” APD Communications’ mission-critical software is used by one in two UK police forces and other emergency services organisations across the country. The Control Room Awards 2018 feature nine categories: •The Award for Services to the Public; •The Lifetime Achievement Award; •Control Room Dispatcher of the Year; •Control Room Call Taker of the Year; •The Community Champion Award; •Young Achiever of the Year; •Leader of the Year; •Special Recognition Award for Bravery and Courage; and •Team of the Year. West Yorkshire Police is among those welcoming the “long overdue” awards, and Tom Donohoe, customer contact centre head at the force, said: “People remember the officers on the scene at a major incident – they don’t always recognise that, more than likely, the response began with the skilled handling of a call into a police control room. “In such incidents it’s down to a call handler to stay calm, take down the details, assess the risks and look after the officers going out to the incident, by making sure they know what they are going into. All of that can sometimes go unnoticed. “I’m a really big supporter of these new awards – they are long overdue. Our control room staff and their counterparts around the country do great work, every single day, and that deserves to be recognised.” He said West Yorkshire Police call handler Deborah Griffiths perfectly illustrates the crucial role of control room staff in responding to the most serious incidents. Just two months after joining the force’s control room team, she took the first call from an eyewitness alerting police to the fatal attack on MP Jo Cox in Birstall, West Yorkshire, in June 2016, and played a vital role in apprehending and securing the conviction of the killer, Thomas Mair. The call was from Darren Playford, who had seen the “murderous attack” on Ms Cox and was tracking the assailant as he left the scene. Ms Griffiths kept the caller calm and focused, ensured he was safe, and relayed vital information to officers as they raced to the scene. Above all, she was conscious of the need to ensure the caller was not at risk of becoming another victim. For 20 minutes she kept officers continuously updated on the suspects’ description and movements until they were able to apprehend the killer. APD Communications says her “exemplary performance under extreme pressure” illustrates the vital role control room staff play in responding to traumatic incidents and why call handlers are so deserving of the recognition they will receive in the Control Room Awards 2018. Ms Griffiths said: “Control room staff don’t look for recognition, but it’s a good thing they will be acknowledged by these awards. People don’t appreciate the amount of skill, empathy and caring that goes into handling the calls we take. “Some of the calls we receive are about minor matters, but many of them are extremely harrowing. We deal with them because that’s our job – we’re here to look after the public and our colleagues, the officers.”

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