"Emergency" parrots call from Redhill remembered as Surrey Police mark milestone (From Redhill And Reigate Life)
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"Emergency" parrots call from Redhill remembered as Surrey Police mark milestone
3:22pm Monday 2nd September 2013 in Local News
A 999 call about parrots in Redhill was recalled as one of the more unusual inappropriate uses of the emergency dialling code when Surrey Police celebrated a milestone.
The Surrey Police Contact Centre at the Force's headquarters at Mount Browne, Guildford, celebrated its tenth anniversary by raising funds for Chief Constable Lynne Owens' chosen charities for 2013, the Princess Alice and Phyllis Tuckwell Hospices.
Call centre operators with ten years' service or more in the Contact Centre also attended an award ceremony, where the Chief Constable presented them with a certificate of achievement.
The Surrey Police Contact Centre receives both emergency and non-emergency calls from members of the public.
Since opening on August 26, 2003, call operators there have taken nearly 1.5 million 999 calls and more than 4.5 million non-emergency calls.
The call operators are the first point of contact at a time of crisis, supporting both the caller and the operational workforce during an incident.
Their actions affect the deployment of correct emergency service resources to the scene. Sarah Durston, head of contact for Surrey Police, said: "Contact Centre operators are the unseen heroes within policing, who are often overlooked but can resolve calls without the need for deployment.”
She said: “Most Contact Centre staff are multi-skilled, dealing with 999 calls, non-emergency 101 calls, inputting crime reports, monitoring social media and on-line reporting.
"They deal with a huge variety of often stressful or difficult situations. Working as part of a team and supporting each other is paramount.”
She continued: “In what can be a very pressurised environment, the call operators work calmly and effectively to reassure the caller whilst gaining vital information which can be relayed to police officers. “Their work is a critical factor in ensuring the services provide a quick and effective response. "
But she highlighted a problem they all face at one time or another.
"Call operators face many challenges but a common problem is dealing with non-emergency calls coming through on a 999 call,” she said. “They professionally point the caller in the right direction, such as the non-emergency 101, the Surrey Police website or other organisations. “It is extremely frustrating knowing that a basic enquiry may be blocking the line for a genuine emergency. “Callers are reminded to only dial 999 when there is a crime in progress or an immediate threat to life or property.”
One such inappropriate non-emergency call made on the 999 line came from Redhill.
Nicky Timperley, who has worked as a call operator at Surrey Police for 20 years, said: "The core of what we do has not changed, and it still amuses me how people continue to turn to us for common sense advice about matters which have nothing whatsoever to do with the police. “There was a call I took from a lady in Redhill calling on 999 to advise that there were a lot of parrots in a tree in her back garden - and she held the phone out of her window for me to hear them.”
She continued: “I've had one male call as he lives in Newcastle and wanted to know the best time to use the M25 to go home without getting stuck in traffic.”
She said other examples of inappropriate uses of the 999 code included a woman calling because her TV was broken and Eastenders was about to start, an intoxicated man calling to ask if they could take him a crate of beer, and a woman crying over the phone because there was a spider in the living room and she wanted police to remove it.
"This is a very rewarding career and it's great to be doing something useful in the public sector,” she said. “Things have moved on a lot over the years and we offer a much more flexible service.
“As well as social media playing a part, our calls are now centralised to the one location - even though some members of the older generation still think their call is going through to their local police station, and ask to speak to the desk sergeant.”
Call operators also monitor Twitter and receive crime reports online.
The Contact Centre staff includes 192 operators, 15 supervisors and five duty managers to provide a 24-hour service through a combination of shift working and flexible staffing every day of the year.