Why did you join the control room?
Whilst in my previous employment I became a special constable, hearing the dispatchers in the control room I thought to myself “I wouldn’t mind doing that”, being that calm voice in the chaos. I had been with my previous employer for 10 years, ever since I had left school and all my higher education was aimed at that line of work, it would have been a big change. But, when I saw the job advert for the dispatcher role I decided to take the leap and left my old life behind. I started within our force call centre where I took 999 and non-emergency calls and also dispatched motorway units and force wide resources. I eventually got a moved to one of our main dispatch centres and nearly 12 years later I am still here, during the last 6 years I have done various stints acting as a supervisor and have just secured a permanent position. I’m someone that thrives off being busy and dealing with a problem, working in a control gives me both of these and more.
Tell us what is like working in an emergency control room?
I can’t lie, it is a job that is mentally tiring and not for the faint hearted as you can be dealing tragedy on a daily basis. Every day is different and offers a new challenge but it also offers so much reward, the help you can give members of public and officers on the street. You work so closely with a team of people that some days you spend more time with these people than you do your own family. But with that also brings close friendships and shared sense of humour which can get you through the tough times. It can be hard to describe to someone that has never worked in an emergency control room what it is really like, but it’s fair to say it’s a juggling act.
When you get a good result from a call like being able to direct officers to an offender or finding a high risk missing person, it can make your day.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
The most rewarding part? Knowing that you can make a differences to someone’s life, be that offering advice, getting officers to them as quick as possible or even at times physically talking someone down off a ledge when they have nowhere to turn in times of need. Those type of calls can come anytime from anywhere, you can never predict what’s going to happen, and it’s that ability of going from a routine call to something major and dealing with it all is so rewarding. When you get a good result from a call like being able to direct officers to an offender or finding a high risk missing person, it can make your day.
What makes your job challenging and how do you overcome this?
Being in a control room carries a number of challenges for a dispatcher or call taker, you can be dealing with something very minor when everything happens at once, calls coming in from all over and out stripping the resources you have to send. It’s frustrating as you want to help everyone but you can’t, not straight away as you need to juggle people around, negotiate with sergeants to get an officer free to attend. But when it comes down to it, we all club together to achieve the best outcome. Probably the biggest challenging is dealing with the tragedy that can happen, these can include anything from deaths, serious assaults to abuse, the list is long and is different for everyone, but working as a team and learning to talk about this is a great way to overcome it.
What does International Control Room Week mean to you and the team?
Because of the work we undertake it can be a thankless task at times, it can be seen that we are just doing our job and we should be happy at that. But it’s not that simple really, they effort dispatchers put in, forgoing breaks so not to leave their partners by themselves, listening to horrors on the phone and dealing with a never ending list of jobs to service. By having something like this means we can at least feel appreciated for the job we do, especially at the moment as we are having a big review which will have come in to effect on the week of international control room week.