Derbyshire police and crime commissioner Alan Charles finds out what 999 call handlers do

Alan Charles
Alan Charles
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For five hours on a busy Friday night, Derbyshire Police and Crime Commissioner Alan Charles and his Deputy Hardyal Dhindsa saw for themselves what it’s like to be a police call handler on a 999 watch.

“We were prepared for the real emergency calls but astonished by some people’s idea of what’s critical,” the Commissioner commented. “Dialling 999 is for 999 situations, not ‘I’ve lost my trousers’ or ‘I can’t find my friend who was supposed to meet me 10 minutes ago.’

“The job of the call handlers is to get help to emergency situations as quickly as possible. Having valuable time taken up by non-urgent or even frivolous matters could have serious consequences where every second counts.”

hile at the contact management centre, the Commissioner and his Deputy were able to see just how smoothly the call handlers deal with real problems at one of the busiest and most testing times of the week. “We were both very impressed by the professionalism of the staff and the reassurance they gave people who were struggling to keep calm,” Mr Charles said.

As part of their fact-finding mission to see how the centre works at both busy and non-peak periods, they also spent an afternoon observing the handling of non-emergency calls. The wide variety of calls included people attending the Y Not Festival, people calling in with information, and others ringing to make an appointment or following up with details of a crime.

“We can all help the call handlers do what is a difficult, stressful job – particularly when taking 999 calls – by making sure that we ring the right number,” the Commissioner pointed out.

Mr Dhindsa added: “It’s a real eye-opener seeing and hearing how the calls are dealt with. It certainly brings home just how desperately anyone would want their call responded to quickly, calmly and professionally in an emergency. In non-emergency situations people can help by ringing 101 and keeping the strain off the emergency lines.”

Any call to 101 (the non-emergency number) or to 999 is assessed for the type of response required, whether that is immediate priority, non emergency or an appointment.