The world’s oldest emergency call service, 999, celebrates its 80th anniversary today.
It was brought in following a fire at a London doctor’s surgery in November 1935, which led to the tragic death of five women. This resulted in a committee being set up by the government to look at the problem of how telephone operators could identify emergency calls and pass them through to the most appropriate Emergency Control Room.
Last year our Fire Control Operators received 10,383 emergency calls and so far in 2017 they have managed over 4,500 calls. Although a small team, our control operators work 24/7 365 days a year on a shift system basis, so that they are ready to respond to any emergency. During their shifts they can deal with a wide range of calls from major fires, fires in homes, animal rescues, deliberate small fires, persons stuck in structures or trapped in machinery to specialist incidents requiring a response from our Hazmat team.
However, being a control operator is not just about taking 999 calls, which at times can be quite distressing in itself, but they also provide ongoing support for the incident that firefighters are dealing with, for example mobilising additional equipment; requesting support from other agencies at the same time as ensuring that they manage countywide fire cover.
Training is also a huge part of the role and our crews are trained to support emergency callers if they find themselves trapped, which happens more often than you think, especially in flood waters and how to spot when a 999 call may be fake by using a robust call challenge procedure.
So while we celebrate 80 years of the launch of the 999 call system, why not think about the developments that have taken place during that time and the amazing work our Fire Control Operators do every day to help keep communities safer!