Unsung 999 heroes celebrated as International Control Room Week goes viral

Thousands of control room staff have joined together in an extraordinary celebration of their work as the unseen frontline of the emergency services.

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They threw their support behind the first International Control Room Week saluting the critical role played by the 999 teams dealing with traumatic and stressful situations on a daily basis.

The campaign was supported by almost 200 control room operations and more than 10,000 personnel from police, ambulance, fire and coastguard services across the UK, as well as control rooms from as far afield as USA, Australia and India.

Emergency services and their staff took to social media to raise public awareness of their life-saving and life-changing work and share their personal stories of dealing with extreme emergencies.

The launch day saw the campaign hashtag #UnsungHeroes trending nationally as control room staff and supporters spread the word on social media.

Across the week, from October 22-28, almost 10,000 posts from more than 5,000 individual social media accounts were shared, achieving a total reach of over 20 million people.

Bunting and decorations celebrating International Control Room Week also bedecked the London Ambulance Service control room during a visit by the Prince of Wales. During a tour of the headquarters of the UK’s busiest ambulance service, Prince Charles spoke to call handlers about their vital work supporting people across the capital.

International Control Room Week was launched by technology company APD Communications, which supplies critical, life-saving software to emergency services organisations across the UK and supports critical control operations internationally.

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Rhiannon Beeson, APD’s Marketing and Sales Manager, said: “We’ve been absolutely blown away by the response to International Control Room Week. The support for the week and control room employees has been incredible.

“We would like to thank all the emergency services organisations and their staff who have got involved and, in many cases, have told their own deeply emotional stories of how their actions have saved lives and helped people in the most difficult and distressing of circumstances.

“The overwhelming positivity the week has generated has highlighted how important it is to celebrate the amazing work of control room teams and give them the recognition they so richly deserve. We’re delighted to confirm that we plan to make International Control Room Week an annual event. Next year, we will celebrate from 21 – 27 October 2019 and will be opening registrations even earlier in anticipation of high demand.”

Leaders of the emergency services and critical control rooms said the week had performed a valuable public service in gaining widespread recognition for behind-the-scenes staff who play a vital role in keeping people safe and secure.

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Jules Lockett, London Ambulance Service’s Emergency Operations Centre Training Manager, said: “Control Room Week has been a great opportunity to showcase the incredible, caring and compassionate work of all our control room staff.

“We have been able to recognise this part of our organisation as our unsung heroes, who often deal with difficult situations on a daily basis.”

Libby Logan, Scottish Fire and Rescue Service’s Area Manager for Operations Control, said: “We have been absolutely delighted to support International Control Room Week.

“Our committed Control Firefighters across Scotland are the unseen frontline, working together to play a critical role in the safety and wellbeing of Scotland’s communities.

“I would like to thank each of them for their dedication and professionalism in the face of often difficult situations. I would also like to take this opportunity to extend that very same thanks to all of our Operations Control colleagues across the UK and the world.”

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Tom Donohoe, West Yorkshire Police’s Customer Contact Centre Manager, said: “International Control Room Week is very important as it celebrates the work that goes in from call centre staff, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

“It’s important that my team and others across the country are recognised for the vital role they perform. They are usually the first contact someone has when they are facing a situation which could be the worst moment of their life. The hashtag #UnsungHeroes says it all.”

As well as raising awareness of the crucial work of control room teams, International Control Room Week raised funds for two mental health charities, Mind and Scotland’s Association for Mental Health. This reflects the extreme pressures the 999 teams face and also that control rooms across the UK are dealing with record numbers of phone calls related to mental health.

APD pledged to donate £1 to the charities for every time the hashtag #UnsungHeroes was used on social media. The hashtag was used 2,227 times and, because of the amazing support for the week, APD has decided to more than double the amount it will contribute, so will be donating £5,000.

To find out more about International Control Room Week and read inspiring stories of emergency services #UnsungHeroes go to www.internationalcontrolroomweek.com