When someone dials 999 the first person that they speak to will be a BT operator who will make sure that their call is connected to the correct emergency service.
The equipment that BT uses is able to automatically identify where a caller is calling from. The BT operator will ask the caller which emergency service they want; fire, police, ambulance or coastguard and connect the call.
Once a call has been connected to South Wales Fire and Rescue Service’s Fire Control, the Firefighter (Control) will ask the caller questions so that they make sure the correct help is given.
Fire Control Call Handling
Every time a 999 call is received, the Firefighter (Control) call taker creates a new ‘incident’ within the computerised mobilising system.
To ensure that the caller receives the right help, the Firefighter (Control) will ask a range of questions. These questions are designed to make sure that the Firefighter (Control) finds out what the emergency is and where it is located so that the correct fire appliances can be mobilised. Examples of these questions are:
The Firefighter (Control) will enter all of the information that the caller is able to give them into the mobilising system. The mobilising system will then use that information to help work out the correct help to give. It will use for the address or location that has been entered to look for and suggest the nearest fire appliances to send. It will also look at the type of emergency and recommend the number of fire appliances that are needed and if any specialist equipment is as well. The mobilising system also stores details of any hazards that exist at the address or that are in the area and Fire Control ensures that the firefighters on the fire appliances are informed. Advice Given to Caller
As well as asking questions, the Firefighter (Control) may also give the caller advice that will help to keep them safe. Advice is given when people are trapped in fires, flood water and road traffic collisions. Understandably people who are trapped or who can see someone who is trapped are often very frightened, distressed or panicked and so the Firefighter Control will stay on the phone talking to them until the firefighters arrive. This process is called Life Saving Guidance and has been proved to save lives.
Who Makes Emergency Calls?
Most of the emergency 999 calls that Fire Control receives come from members of the public. However, Fire Control regularly receives calls from the police and ambulance services and from alarm companies that monitor the activation of automatic fire alarms. Emergency calls are also received from other services such as The Coastguard, Cardiff International Airport’s Air Traffic Control and neighbouring fire and rescue services.
Fire control is also able to send and receive incident information to and from other emergency agencies via electronic data transfer. This means that incident information can be shared more quickly and efficiently than via telephone and also allows for incidents to be processed by several different agencies at the same time.
Fire Control doesn’t just take 999 calls for fires; in fact calls for fires are often only a small part of a working shift. During a shift Firefighters (Control) will deal with a large number of calls, and whilst these can be for life-threatening emergencies that are frightening and upsetting for the people involved, others will be for less serious situations.
Examples of incidents that 999 calls are received for include:
999 calls can also be seasonal and periods such as Bonfire Night can mean that a lot more calls for bonfires or rubbish fires are received. The weather can also have a major impact on the number of 999 calls received for example; a long hot spell will mean that a lot of calls to grass fires are received whilst a heavy summer downpour can result in lots of calls for flash flooding.
Every incident that is created is given a unique number and this number means that all the details for that incident can be logged and recalled easily. The incident log will remain live until all of the fire appliances have left the incident and then it will be saved. Information that is saved on the log include a list of all fire appliances that attended, what other agencies e.g. the police were contacted and what equipment was used to deal with the incident.
During the course of an incident firefighters may ask Fire Control for information about chemicals, vehicles and weather forecasts etc. Fire Control will then access specialist internet sites to find the answers to the firefighters’ questions.
During all incidents, Firefighters (Control) monitor the Service’s area to make sure that fire appliances are spread across the fire stations evenly. If the spread becomes uneven, fire appliances will be relocated.