Look behind the scenes of Avon and Somerset Constabulary's 999 and 101 call centre

PUBLISHED: 12:00 30 October 2017

Force incident manager Sarah Lewis and communication centre manager Becky Tipper in Portishead HQ's call centre. Picture: Eleanor Young

Force incident manager Sarah Lewis and communication centre manager Becky Tipper in Portishead HQ's call centre. Picture: Eleanor Young

Archant

Hundreds of thousands of calls come in to Avon and Somerset Constabulary's call centre each year. Reporter ELEANOR YOUNG went behind the scenes of the police's headquarters to see what happens when you pick up the phone.

The call centre at Avon and Somerset Constabulary's Portishead HQ. Picture: Eleanor YoungThe call centre at Avon and Somerset Constabulary's Portishead HQ. Picture: Eleanor Young

In five months, the police had 105,154 emergency 999 calls and 280,256 non-emergency 101 calls.

Avon and Somerset Constabulary has seen a lot of changes over the past year following cuts to the annual budget but the force has still worked hard to improve its communication centre.

The introduction of the mental health triage team and the new and improved partnership between the police and fire services has meant emergency calls are dealt with in a more ergonomic way.

Communications centre manager Becky Tipper, aged 39, said the force had been working hard to improve, despite the ongoing pressure from cuts.

She added: “Everyone who does this job wants to make a difference and we have the ability to try and change and save lives.

“That is why we do it but there are real frustrations because no matter how hard you work there are still too many jobs for the amount of resources we have.”

Collapse behind locked door protocol

Traditionally when paramedics arrive at a house in response to a call and found the door was locked, they would contact the police.

However in recent months the force has teamed up with Avon Fire and Rescue Service and Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue to encourage the ambulance to call them instead.

Ms Tipper said the new plan will help ‘drastically reduce’ the number of police deployments to these sorts of cases and would save homeowners a lot of money, since the fire services have specialised equipment to gain access to a building while causing ‘minimal damage’.

Since September, when the new protocol was introduced, firefighters have attended more than 1,000 incidents and have taken an average of seven and a half minutes to reach the scene, meaning people get the help they need, quicker.

First point of contact

If you have ever used the 101 non-emergency line then you may be familiar with the switchboard.

But the line is now open seven days a week. The operators are able to triage 101 calls and send them to the appropriate bodies, whether it is a council, department, officer or external emergency service.

The new system has helped reduce caller wait times and has saved 3,000 calls a month to the communications team.

Mental health triage team

In May, the police teamed up with their mental health partners to provide a better all-round service.

The team is based in the call centre and are able to support call handlers, dispatchers and officers who are out at a scene.

Ms Tipper said: “They will look at details on our log and will take notes from their own systems, which we don’t have access to, and can provide vital information to help us deal with that member of the public.

“It saves officer deployment when it is not required but it also aids us in trying to get information quickly so having them in here is great.

“In emergency situations, any information we can have at our finger tips helps and it helps when people cannot remember important details because they are in a state of crisis.”

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