PC Bloggs posted something this week about what happens when you make a 999 call. I’ve reproduced the salient points below and added a few comments (in red);
- You get through to the joint emergency services operator who will ask which service you want (ie police, fire, ambulance, coastguard, meals on wheels etc).
- They will put you through, but you will have to wait on the line while they relay your phone number across. You might think this would be electronically transmitted immediately. You might well think this.
- Also correct, although new technology this year will automatically fire across your telephone number without the operator having to tell us.
- You get through to a call-taker. THIS IS NOT A POLICE OFFICER. He or she will try to grasp why you have called and start recording it into a typed log. Once some basic details are typed in, if they deem your call an emergency, the call-taker can "ping" it across to the control room. By now it will be about one minute since you dialled.
- Wrong. It is very possible the person who answers your 999 call WILL be a police officer. It may well be me, if my luck is out that day. I hate taking 999 calls, sorry but it’s true. They like police officers taking calls; we tend to blank more callers and tell them we’re not interested in their complaint & they should speak to someone who gives a fuck. Whereas civilians will promise a response, tell you we’ll take statements, and promise all sorts of things we’ll end up not delivering.
- A controller reads the log. They CAN dispatch a police officer now, but in all probability there are some checks they need to do first, such as whether your number or address has called the police before and the outcome. They will do police national computer checks on any names you give them. All of this will take 3-5 minutes.
Depends. If it’s an immediate response we’ll have sent a unit straight away, we’ll then carry out our intelligence checks. If it’s a real emergency we’ll have sent someone before we fully know what the job is all about. That’s why police officers on route to jobs always ask for information we haven’t got yet, because the caller is still talking to the call-taker while an officer is already on route.
- Now they will "grade" your call. Which means decide whether police will go with blue lights on, without, or quite frankly whether we’ll bother at all.
- Wrong, at least where I work. The call has already been graded by the calltaker, quite often they get it right but we can correct the response level if the calltaker is talking out of their arse.
- If you get the top grading, they will search for a resource. This can take the form of an electronic search for units who have booked themselves "available". They can also use the in-car radio sets to track the nearest unit (if the driver’s turned it on and it’s working – unlikely). Usually, they will call up on the air asking for a unit to volunteer.
- In-car tracking? Which force does she work for? Tracking systems may have been in use in ambulances and my local taxi company for years but most police forces don’t have them.
- After a suitable pause to see if anyone else is going to volunteer, someone will. They then set off.
- Er, they will volunteer if it’s a job they can use their blue lights on, if it’s some crappy pain-in-the-arse ‘harassment’ text message job (i.e. most of them) they will suddenly remember they’re not available for assignments but are taking urgent statements or doing the urgent arrest enquiry they’ve been keeping for a few weeks for just such an occasion. Except PC Cross.