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Coronavirus (COVID-19): the policing response and what you need to know

Kat, call handler

Kat is a call handler who has worked in the Communications Centre for over two years. She describes her experience of a typical day in the role.

Start of shift

It’s Monday morning, my shift starts at 07:00 hours, but I like to get there around 06:40 hours to give myself the opportunity to get a coffee, log-in, catch up on any changes and grab my headset. I look quite bright-eyed compared to my night-shift colleagues, even though I struggled to get up after my four days off (the first one is always the worst).

This is it now, I’m here for the long run – 10 hours of diversity and challenges. I’ll flit between agony aunt, councillor, friend, confidante, negotiator, guardian, leader, advocate and call handler. I don’t know which hat I’ll need to wear, I don’t know who I’ll get or what it will be.

It’s normally quiet for the first 15 minutes or so, the world is waking up and this is my chance to sip my coffee.

The incident

It’s not long before the calls start queuing and then suddenly there’s a collision on the M5. The board lights up like a christmas tree, the 999 calls spike and abruptly the atmosphere in the room has switched from subdued to hectic. You’d anticipate sheer panic, but there is none. This is a controlled chaos with a sea of call handlers stating “police emergency” as if almost in unison.

After taking details from a witness and thanking them for the call, that’s it – I’m onto the next. Other colleagues have people who have been involved on the line, some who are injured and others who are in shock. Soon enough, officers are on scene and we’ve handed the baton over.

Remember that coffee I made? It’s cold now. This is likely to be a pattern for the rest of the day, a trait of the job I’ve just gotten used to.

The control room

What’s the control room like you ask? Sometimes it’s tumultuous, the room roaring with 999 calls from members of the public who need the police. It can be an adrenalin pumping environment that keeps you on your toes. No two days are the same… but, that’s what’s so great about it.

There are moments where you can catch up with your colleagues. It doesn’t take long to consider them as family and often you find they’re the best to speak to because they ‘understand’.

“You form a support network like no other and some days you need that.”

Some things we hear can be pretty harrowing, it’s hard to digest and it plays on your mind. Other calls seem almost ‘normal’, you build rapport with your caller, find common ground, and maybe even make them laugh.

You’ll be asked how your day is and it’s nice to be in a job where people care. There are so many different networks that offer support such as TRIM (Trauma Risk Incident Management), UNISON and Peer Support – to name a few.

End of shift

Ten hours goes quickly when you’re a headset hero. It doesn’t come without its lows, but the highs always outweigh them.

Going home knowing you’ve been there for someone who needed it most, offered an ear to listen when no one else would or be the voice of calm on someone’s worst day is no mean feat.

Call Handlers are the first point of contact between the public and Police – a great weight to carry, don’t you think? 


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