Archive for March 31st, 2009

March 31st, 2009

Back to the Grindstone

Posted in The Job - Experience by 200

It was back to the grindstone this week. Someone died on the roads. People die on the roads every day. Most are preventable tragedies.

Once something like this happens people spring into serious work mode. There’s little time for personal involvement; there are procedures to go through. Fatal accidents on the major roads is where we earn our bucks in the control room, that & pursuits. Sometimes routine gets in the way of appreciating that the once living body hanging out of the car was someone’s wife & mother.

Shutting the major road network while a road death is investigated has major implications, especially during the day when traffic flow is at its heaviest. The government don’t like it, it’s bad for business & companies lose millions when their business is delayed by a few hours. Not for the first time have I been approached by the officer in charge of the control room to ask me how long the X-road is going to be shut because some government department has been on the phone asking for it to be opened ASAP.

So we’re on the radio dealing with all the demands of the many officers tasked to deal with the RTC, on the phone liaising with other authorities; for instance we need to get Highways out to reinforce road closures which we’ve sent other units to set up. We’re typing everything everyone says on the radio & phone onto the incident log, speaking with the boss in the control room & other members of staff asking them to ring so-and-so on our behalf because there’s only 2 of us (1 sometimes) & it’s enough just to deal with radio traffic let alone everything else expected of us.

We spend some of our radio airtime telling officers we’ve already done whatever it is they are requesting because we like to think we’re professional, have done an awful lot of fatal accidents & have some idea of the requirements before anyone has asked for them. This doesn’t stop them asking for them, several times sometimes, and wasting valuable airtime (especially true on pursuits when the world & his wife wants to make suggestions or tell you what are basically insignificant bits of information when all you really need to do is listen to the officer behind the target vehicle).

You need to sort out road closures, sometimes with little in the way of free resources. If you don’t get a road closed you might end up with thousands of vehicles trapped on a closed motorway or dual carriageway with nowhere to go, for maybe four or 5 hours, or longer. And in the summer you might have to get extra resources to tour the queues with bottles of water you have to source from somewhere. Agencies which monitor traffic flow need to be advised of road closures & delays & alternative routes so they can get the information out to the media for braodcast on traffic update radio stations.

There’s all sorts of people need updating, supervisors both on the road & inside the control room, other departments, accident investigation, family liaison officers, highways. Someone has to do that i.e. us. Garages need to be organsised & briefed, the vehicles need to be examined, if the casualty/fatality(ies) haven’t gone in the ambulance undertakers need to be arranged, hospital mortuary staff need to be told to be on standby to open the mortuary. People need to be rebriefed – at regular intervals.

So things can get quite hectic. This isn’t to say that it’s not hectic out on the road, it is, I’ve done it, many times. But when you’re out there dealing you tend to have a specific task. Once your road closure is on that’s really it, apart from telling motorists repeatedly that this section of road is closed, and no you can’t go down there, and it’s a shame you’re going to be delayed for an important meeting/iminent flight/whatever, but someone died & we have to investigate it. The controllers have to pull everything together, in real time and be aware of exactly who is doing exactly what, where & when. You really don’t have time to fart let alone draw breath.

Meanwhile, a police officer somewhere is preparing to knock on a door to tell someone their wife & mother to their children isn’t coming home, ever.

Back to the grindstone.