From Humberside Police.
When you work in our Force Control Room there’s no such thing as a typical day – or a typical 10 minutes for that matter!
What you can guarantee is that you’ll spend your days – and nights – helping the most vulnerable in our communities and making sure that we’re #ThereWhenYouNeedUs.
And as experienced call handlers Carly Spouse and Karen Doyle know, you just never know what you’ll be dealing with the next time you pick up the phone.
From a distraught mum whose child has gone missing to a victim of domestic abuse begging for help, the role of our contact officers is to stay calm and get the information they need to get officers where they need to be as quickly as possible.
However, they also have to deal with calls about issues which should really be directed to other agencies – and some that just shouldn’t be made at all.
Carly, who has worked in the control room since 2015, said: “I love my job but it’s not what I expected when I first joined.
“You’d think more people would ring just about crime but it’s far from the reality. A lot of it is about mental health issues.
“Sometimes people just need someone to talk to. A lot of the time it’s a cry for help and they feel like they have nowhere else to go.
“I know that every shift I will get at least one call related to mental health issues and at least one about domestic abuse but no two of these calls are ever the same.
“What’s most important to us is finding out what the best way of helping them is – whether that’s sending officers or pointing them towards another agency that better placed to deal with that issue.”
Karen, who has worked as a contact officer for almost seven years, added: “The best part of this job is knowing that we have helped people.
“I have dealt with lots domestic abuse incidents where I have stayed on the line and just talked to the caller until the officers are there and they know they are safe.
“You can hear the change in their voice and demeanour when the officers arrive and it’s great to know you have played a part in that.
“Getting the information you need to do that isn’t always straight forward – especially if someone is really upset or frightened.
“I feel awful sometimes because we have to be quite firm with people so that we can help them.
“I remember one lady who just kept saying to me, ‘Get here now. Get here now.’ I had to ask her to stop saying that, as she’d not given us her address and we needed her to answer the questions we were asking her so that we could get her the help she needed.”
Of course, not all calls we receive are appropriate. Some are well meaning, others just downright time wasters – but all of them take time to deal with.
Carly (pictured above) said: “One that stands out for me is the woman who called 999 repeatedly to ask how big my bum is.
“She rang back a few times and we ended up having to flag her to our inspector so she could be dealt with officially for wasting police time.
“We get so many ridiculous calls that you can’t dwell on them. You just have to deal with it, think ‘what a waste of time’ and move on to the next call and hope this is from someone who we can help.
“Some of the worst are when you come off the phone and think ‘I can’t believe they just rang for that’.”
From people who are locked out of their houses to reports of smoke coming from a neighbour’s house, you’d be amazed what people call us about.
Karen (pictured above) said: “A lady called us to say that she could see smoke coming out of her neighbour’s kitchen but she was away from home.
“I asked if she had called the fire service and she said she hadn’t as she didn’t want to waste their time.
“We also get people calling us when they find someone who has collapsed in the street because they don’t want to bother the ambulance service.
“We always urge them to call the appropriate service but we also end up flagging it with them ourselves so that we know it’s being dealt with and no one is in danger.
“We also get the opposite end of the scale – particularly with elderly people – where they should be calling 999 and they don’t.
“I’ve taken calls to 101 from older people who have been waiting on hold and when they get through they say ‘So sorry to bother you but I think there might be someone in my house. I’m upstairs in bed – do you want me to go downstairs?’
“Of course we tell them to stay where they are safe and get officers straight out to them but these are the kind of calls we want to come through to 999 so we can get to them as quickly as possible.
“The most important thing for us is that we are there for you when you need us, which is why it’s so vital that people know who they need to call and when.”
To find out more about how to #MakeTheRightCall, download our print out and keep guide. If you don’t have a printer yourself, visit your local library.