An international campaign to celebrate the life-saving and life-changing work of control room employees is to acknowledge their strength and resilience during the most challenging year in living memory.
Taking place for the third consecutive year, International Control Room Week will run from 19 – 25 October and will shine a light on the critical role control room teams perform, particularly during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Control room teams across the globe are key workers and have worked throughout the crisis, taking significantly more calls than usual while continuing to serve and protect the public and deal with serious and distressing incidents on a daily basis.
The week is organised by APD Communications, which supplies critical, life-saving software to emergency services organisations across the UK and supports critical control operations internationally.
Last year more than 11,000 control room employees supported the week across the world, from as far afield as Australia, India and the remote island of St Helena. The campaign week involved 230 control rooms serving police, ambulance, fire and rescue, and coastguard services as well as airports, local authorities and utility companies.
Across the week, almost 7,000 posts about the campaign were shared from over 3,000 social media accounts, reaching almost 17 million people. The week also supported two mental health charities.
Jules Lockett, Head of 999 Operations Training at the London Ambulance Service, is responsible for the training and development of about 650 full and part-time control room employees and said International Control Room Week was more important than ever this year.
Jules said: “When someone calls us, there is often no one else they can speak to and we have to be so much more than the voice on the end of the phone.
“International Control Room Week creates a real buzz and our teams love it because it gives them a focus and a lift. It’s very much welcomed and appreciated after some very difficult months and a period of real tragedy.
“This is a time to recognise the work of control room teams and celebrate what they have achieved. They may have lost colleagues, family members or friends, and many have been affected directly, or through a ripple effect.”
Jules said London Ambulance Service employees offered to work more hours, some had to stay in hotels to protect their families, and others who had taken up alternative roles inside and outside the service returned to the control room to play their part during the pandemic.
Employees took a huge volume of additional calls during the UK lockdown period, including from elderly and vulnerable people who felt frightened and lonely, and from distraught families reporting relatives experiencing severe Covid-19 symptoms.
Jules said: “Those calls can really floor you and take the wind out of your sails. Some calls were made out of sheer panic, uncertainty and the unknown. In taking those calls you really feel the emotions of the callers.
“I feel very humbled to work in this organisation because our people do this for the benefit of other people and often don’t realise the impact they have. You can’t save everybody, but you can be there for everybody, regardless of the outcome.”
The “112” emergency services contact centre in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh took part last year and employees are looking forward to doing the same again in October.
Asim Arun (pictured), Additional Director General, 112, for Uttar Pradesh Police, said his control room teams have faced huge challenges as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, including co-ordinating distribution of food, medication and supplies to those most in need across the state, which has a population of 220 million people.
Before Covid-19 hit, the control room teams dispatched to between 15,000 and 16,000 events in response to emergency calls per day, which increased to 40,000 when the virus took hold.
Additional employees were trained to bolster the team and some returned to the control room after leaving to take up other roles.
Asim said: “I’m very proud of the team and of the fact we managed this challenge because implementing a lockdown and delivering humanitarian aid is quite different from our usual roles.
“I feel content that our government trusted us to do this and we met their expectations. We’ve never had a year like this and the team has responded so well.
“International Control Room Week makes us proud because it recognises the achievements of control room teams and we’re very excited and eager to be involved. We plan to involve all 75 districts across our state and each one of our 190-plus control rooms.”
Rhiannon Beeson, APD’s Commercial Director, said: “It’s even more vital this year to recognise and celebrate the incredible work of control room teams as key workers making a vital contribution to society all of the time, but especially so during the global pandemic.
“The week also provides a valuable morale boost to control room operators following months of unprecedented challenges, personally and professionally.”
Control room teams can now sign up to International Control Room Week at www.internationalcontrolroomweek.com and will receive a free celebration box filled with balloons, bunting, sweets and a few surprises, to add to their involvement in the initiative.
APD is a leading software supplier to the emergency services, public safety and control room markets. The company provides mission critical communications and control solutions used by more than two thirds of UK police forces as well as major transportation hubs and airports, including Gatwick and Dubai international airports and the London Underground.