Thousands of heroes in headsets join week celebrating 999 control room staff

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Thousands of behind-the-scenes heroes of the emergency services are joining the first International Control Room Week, starting today.

The week is aimed at raising public awareness of the life-saving and life-changing work of staff in emergency services control rooms, with more than 185 critical control operations the length and breadth of Britain taking part.

That means over 10,000 control room staff from police, ambulance, fire and coastguard services across the UK are joining the campaign, as well as control room operators as far afield as Australia and India.

Currently 38 out of the UK’s 45 police forces are participating, while all four emergency services organisations in Scotland are also joining in.

Running until Sunday (October 28), International Control Room Week reflects the vital role control room staff perform in keeping the public safe and secure and helping them during traumatic situations, as well as the ever-growing pressures they face, as shown by these facts:

  • More than eight million 999 calls are made annually.

  • 999 calls have risen 15% year on year.

  • In 2017, the Metropolitan Police received a mental health-related call every five minutes, with volumes of such calls having growth by almost a third over the past five years.

  • More than 370 calls were received by the London Fire Brigade control room within four hours during the Grenfell Tower disaster.

As well as providing an opportunity for control room teams to promote the crucial work they do, and for their often unrecognised contribution to society to be applauded, International Control Room Week will raise funds for two mental health charities.

This reflects that the challenging nature of control room work, often dealing with harrowing and distressing situations, puts employees at greater risk of suffering with poor mental health, and also that control rooms across the UK are dealing with record numbers of phone calls

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International Control Room Week is spearheaded by Hull-based technology company APD Communications, which supplies critical, life-saving software to blue light organisations across the UK and also supports vital operations internationally. Building on those links, APD has encouraged emergency services control rooms across the UK and abroad to back the campaign and help to establish the week as an annual event.

Organisations that have registered to take part in the week have received celebration boxes filled with balloons, bunting, sweet treats, badges and stickers for their control room teams to really get into the spirit of the initiative.

APD is also donating £1 to mental health charities Mind and Scotland’s Association for Mental Health for every #unsungheroes hashtag used on social media during the week.

Rhiannon Beeson, APD’s Marketing and Sales Manager, said: “We’ve been overwhelmed by the response from emergency services organisations to International Control Room Week.

“It’s brilliant that so many services are embracing this opportunity to celebrate the professionalism, dedication and resilience of the amazing people in their control rooms.

“This is the first celebratory week of its kind and, although we know control room staff say ‘they are just doing the job’ every day they save lives and help people in their hour of need. They are the people at the end of the phone, keeping us safe, calm, informed and reassured, even in the most difficult of circumstances.”

The week has been welcomed by leading figures in control room operations.

Joanne Smith, Senior Operations Manager for the London Fire Brigade Control Room, said: “Fire control rooms generally feel remote from the rest of the organisation and it can be a bit of a thankless job, so a week where control rooms are recognised is a great way to make staff feel appreciated and know the role they carry out is vital.

“Every emergency response starts with a call to a control room and those calls are answered by unsung heroes.”

Jules Lockett, Head of Emergency Operations Centre Training for London Ambulance Service, said: “The opportunity to share this celebration of unsung heroes is amazing.

“We are the voice providing care, support and guidance to callers to the emergency services, often without much thought from others, so the chance to promote all of our roles and human side is really welcome.”

To find out more about International Control Room Week and read the inspiring stories of control rooms #UNSUNGHEROES go to www.internationalcontrolroomweek.com