Thousands of emergency and critical control room employees across the world have been celebrated for the vital work they do in a week-long international campaign.
International Control Room Week is the highlight of the control room calendar and this year more than ever as teams have continued to serve the public despite the challenges of the global Covid-19 pandemic.
Organised by APD Communications, which supplies critical, life-saving software to emergency services organisations across the UK and supports critical control operations internationally, the week ran from 19–25 October.
Participation was strong across the UK’s emergency services organisations, with all of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland’s police, fire and ambulance control room teams taking part, as well as all 11 HM Coastguard teams.
More than 11,000 control room colleagues participated in the week across the globe, including as far afield as Dubai International Airport, which is the busiest airport in the world, the National Ambulance Service in Ghana, and New South Wales Ambulance, based in Sydney, Australia. Also taking part were control room teams within the “112” emergency services contact centre operation in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, which has a population of 220 million.
Beyond blue light services, the campaign was also backed by a range of other critical control operations, including the control room teams at East Midlands and Heathrow airports, and Yarra Trams, a 24-hour operation based in Melbourne, with over 5,000 services daily across 250km of track and over 2,000 employees, making it the world’s largest operational tram network.
Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Services joined forces for the “Tour de Control” with the aim of collectively completing 2,082 miles of cycling, running, walking, swimming or other physical movement throughout the week. APD kick-started the fire and rescue services’ challenge by completing the first 20 miles while packing International Control Room Week campaign boxes before the week began.
Ash Spriggs, Crew Manager for Fire Control at Leicestershire Fire and Rescue Service, said: “Even with Covid-19, we have a responsibility to be on duty and maintain our service to the public. Morale everywhere has been really low this year, so it’s nice to have something to look forward to and bring a bit of team spirit back.
“It has been fun and very well received, and operational staff got involved too. If you’re a member of the public, you think of fire firefighters and fire engines, not the people behind the scenes in essential departments and teams that have to work together to ensure the fire crews put the fire out.
“People who work behind the scenes are not front of mind and the week helps us to highlight the essential work control room teams do. It has given us a chance to engage with our colleagues, while also being good for mental health and keeping fit.”
Some control room teams organised International Control Room Week-branded cupcake deliveries for colleagues, while others used the week to praise individuals within their teams and highlight what their roles involve, including brother and sister call handlers Becca, Catherine and Gareth Sutton of the Welsh Ambulance Service NHS Trust.
Gareth, who joined the service in March after a decade in the construction industry, said: “Now I’ve joined the ambulance service, I’ve got a newfound respect for Becca and Catherine and what they do.
“I’m the eldest sibling, so usually it’s me looking out for my little sisters, but now I’m looking up to them for guidance. It’s a unique job and I’m really enjoying it.”
Jason Killens, Welsh Ambulance Service NHS Trust Chief Executive, said: “When people think about the ambulance service, it’s often those who work on the frontline who get the recognition.
“What they might not appreciate is that we’ve got a huge team of unsung heroes behind the scenes working just as hard to triage those calls and coordinate our response.
“The nature of this work is challenging and rewarding in equal measure, and we’d like to extend a huge thanks to our control room colleagues for their hard work and commitment.”
More than 200 boxes filled with items to help celebrate and promote the week were distributed to every team that signed up to the campaign and included International Control Room Week branded bunting, posters, postcards, window and floor stickers, sweets, biscuits and a framed poem about the job they do, that makes them unsung heroes.
Control room staff were asked to nominate their colleagues for personalised social media “shout outs”, showing the world the faces of the teams behind the scenes.
Almost five hundred colleagues from New South Wales Ambulance’s four control centres also took part in this year’s celebrations, holding barbecues and wearing fancy dress to mark the week in a fun way.
Rebecca Wood, Acting Deputy Director of the service’s Southern Control Centre, said: “New South Wales Ambulance is committed to providing high-quality clinical care and health-related transport services to over 7.9 million people, distributed across an area of over 800,000 square kilometres.
“We value the outstanding contribution our control centre staff make to the lives of so many patients and this week is a great opportunity to recognise their hard work and dedication.”
The campaign also attracted the attention of BBC Radio 2 breakfast show presenter Zoe Ball, who gave a shout out for the week and control room staff live on her show, which has 8.1 million weekly listeners.
Rhiannon Beeson, APD’s Commercial Director, said: “It’s amazing to see International Control Room Week growing at such a phenomenal rate with control rooms from more countries and more sectors signing up.
“When someone calls a control room it is usually because they are experiencing one of the worst moments in their life. They won’t ever forget that person that helped them, reassured them and got them the help they needed. This is a week-long outpouring of passion and enthusiasm for the vital work control room teams do.”
The campaign achieved a reach of more than 14 million people across social media and APD will donate £13,358 split equally between mental health charities Mind and Scotland’s Association for Mental Health because more than 13,000 posts featuring the hashtags #unsungheroes and #internationalcontrolroomweek were shared during the week.
Next year’s week will run from 18-24 October and registrations to take part will open in September 2021.
To find out more about International Control Room Week, visit www.internationalcontrolroomweek.com
Pictured: Teams in New South Wales Ambulance’s four control centres wore fancy dress to mark #internationalcontrolroomweek.