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Celebrating International Control Room week with our ‘heroes in headsets’

Control Room operator at desk

When the public ring 999 to report a fire, someone trapped in water, or even a chemical incident, they will speak to an operator in the control room at Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service (NFRS).

This International Control Room Week (19-25 October), NFRS would like to mark the tremendous achievements of our four Watches who provide 24/7 cover, responding to emergency calls.

In the financial year 2019-2020, the NFRS Control Room took 15,607 calls from members of the public (this also includes repeat calls for the same incidents).

The operators respond to everything from serious, life-threatening situations, to calls which perhaps should not have been reported via 999 in the first place! (*)

NFRS asked control room staff to recall their most memorable calls. These included:

• A five-year-old who rang in to tell us that a princess had been kidnapped and taken up the mountain by a dragon
• A call about a cow with a garden chair stuck on its head
• A report about a horse stuck in a tree

And there have been plenty of calls which should not have been deemed a 999 emergency for example:

• Call for the fire service to attend to shut a window.
• Call to save a person from a rat in their kitchen.
• Call for advice on how to blow out a candle.

But the control room teams deal with many emergencies, keeping calm in a crisis and often remaining on the phone to sometimes traumatised people, as a voice of reassurance until firefighters arrive.

In one case, in which a group of teenagers were rescued from underground sewers, a member of the Control Room team remained on the phone for three hours until they were brought to safety.

The NFRS Control Room staff provide essential and sometimes lifesaving advice to the public at the same time as dispatching fire engines, specialist vehicles and officers to incidents.

The structure of the Control Room includes Watch Managers and Crew Managers as well as Firefighter Control Operators.
NFRS fire control receive a wide variety of calls into the control room to reports of fires, road traffic collisions (RTCs), hazardous materials incidents, flooding and water rescue, incidents involving animals, supporting other agencies and major incidents.

The Control Room is also responsible for monitoring messages from crews while they are at incidents and logging correspondence between the incident ground and control. They also request the attendance and liaise with external agencies, such as Police, East Midlands Ambulance Service, Highways England and many others.

In addition, they complete a wide range of administration tasks which are essential to the day to day running of NFRS.

NFRS Control Room Manager, Station Commander Matthew Butler said: “Emergency service control rooms are in the public eye more than ever now thanks to shows such as ‘999 What’s Your Emergency?’ and Ambulance. The public can now become a fly on the wall and really feel the highs and lows of the control room environment, control operators are often the first point of contact for those in need and we are proud to have such an amazing team here at Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service.

“We are pleased to have this time to celebrate and recognise the hard work and professionalism our highly skilled staff display whilst continuing to serve and protect the people of Northamptonshire.”

Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service will be recruiting firefighter control operators in early 2021. Anyone wishing to join our team should look out for further information on our website and social media pages.

*People are reminded to please only call 999 in a genuine emergency.

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