Since starting my blogging journey in November 2011, it has led me to some interesting places. But never did I expect that it would lead me to spending a morning at Avon and Somerset Police Head Quarters!
Avon and Somerset Police had asked me if I would like to take part in their ‘Demand Day’ on 7th July: 24 hours of live updates via social media to give the public a 24 hour snapshot of what the police do both day and night.
Members of all departments of Avon and Somerset Police took part in #ASP24, sharing tweets, videos and photos with the public. The Demand day started at 12.01am and ended at 11.59pm however, rest assured I did not take part in the Demand Day until daylight hours!
You can see my own tweets that I shared on the Bristol Mum Twitter account during #ASP24 here.
I spend the morning in the Call Centre at Avon and Somerset Police HQ, where the police receive both emergency (999) calls and non-emergency calls (101). Police staff in the call centre are split into various departments: 999 calls, 101 calls, the police staff who work in the Despatch Team, arranging for police to go to different areas of Bristol, plus those who take calls for the Intelligence department.
One of the first things I learned there was the difference between 999 and 101 calls – simple to differentiate you might think, however, not always so.
For instance, if you arrived home to find your house has been burgled, your immediate response might be to dial 999. However, if the burglars are no longer there, then a 101 call is needed instead.
Put simply, 999 calls are only needed when it is a dangerous situation and there is the potential of immediate harm to someone.
I chatted to Becky, who is the Communications Centre Manager at Avon and Somerset Police. She explained that at the call centre “no day is the same” and that the nature of calls from the public completely varies widely from day-to-day and could be regarding anything and everything.
She explained that calls from the public could range from talking someone down from a bridge, taking calls from the elderly at night to someone phoning up to complain that there were only 5 cans of beer in their 6 pack (yes, this really happened).
Becky explained that over the Summer, Avon and Somerset Police receive on average 2,200 – 2,500 calls per day!
Since the Demand Day had started at 12.01am until 10.30am that morning, the call centre had already received calls leading to 309 jobs, including domestic violence, murder, firearms, road-related issues and harassment.
I also got to sit in on some live 999 calls! I sat with Lisa, another experienced member of police staff, who, while I was there received calls including domestic violence where there was a child involved, drugs, abandoned calls, assault and more.
It was interesting for me to see and hear a 999 call in process and how Lisa gained the appropriate information and in order of priority, e.g. she always ascertaining the location of the caller first and getting full descriptions of people and situations.
I was impressed at how calm and patient Lisa was, reassuring the callers and keeping them taking to her and focussed, while still ensuring that she gained the fullest and most accurate information available about the situation – not always an easy task when people are panicking and hysterical.
It was clear to me that the members of the police staff that I spoke on the Demand day to were completely dedicated to their jobs and worked extremely hard.
I was surprised at the depth and breadth of what the police officers in the call centre do every day and the sheer diversity of calls received. I was impressed with the professionalism of police staff and their people skills including calmness, patience and reassurance – all the while doing their jobs accurately and making all our lives, and those of our children, safer.
As Becky, the member of police staff I spoke to said to me: “Every day you know you have made a difference, from just a small change to saving someone’s life.”