Emergency Services Control Room Operator

The Job and What's Involved

An emergency services control room operator deals with incoming emergency telephone calls from members of the public. Most operators work in the control room for one of the emergency services - police, ambulance or fire.

They are responsible for:

  • Dealing with incoming emergency calls and prioritising them.
  • Taking the necessary information from the caller.
  • Assessing how urgent each individual incident appears to be.
  • Deciding on the best course of action.
  • Directing an emergency services team to deal with the incident.

Tasks and duties may vary between different emergency services, but generally they may also include:

  • Directing non-emergency calls to the appropriate telephone number.
  • Maintaining contact with the team at the scene of the incident to keep up to date with the situation and ensure staff safety.
  • Ensuring that the best possible use of resources is consistently made.
  • Ensuring that teams work within agreed response time standards.

They work under the direction of a team leader or control officer. Some services divide the roles of operators in a control room between those who take incoming calls and those who dispatch the response teams.

The work can be demanding as difficult decisions have to be made quickly and accurately. They may be dealing with members of the public who are distressed.

Operators work closely with other members of the emergency services such as police officers, fire fighters and paramedics. Operators communicate with them using the telephone, radio and computer systems.

An emergency services control room operator works on average 37.5 hours a week. Due to the 24-hour nature of the work, this is likely to be in shifts, and may include nights, weekends and bank holidays. Part-time work may be available.

They work indoors in fully equipped control rooms with a team of other operators. The majority of the shift is spent sitting at a desk with a headset, using the computer and radios to monitor the position of the emergency staff.

The starting salary for an emergency services control room operator is around £14,000 a year.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

Jobs are available nationwide, often broken down into regions. Key employers include:

- The Police Force.
- NHS Ambulance Trusts.
- Fire and Rescue Services.
- The Armed Forces.

In addition, there are paid and voluntary positions available for search and rescue organisations.

Recruitment is usually handled locally by individual services. Most jobs are advertised in the local press and on the websites of individual services, where further information about entry requirements is available.

Education and Training

There are no set entry requirements for this position, although most operators are expected to be educated to GCSE/S grade standard, or demonstrate the equivalent skills and knowledge. Well-developed computer skills and a good understanding of map-reading and geography may also be an advantage. Some positions may require their operators to speak a second language.

Employers may look for applicants with some experience of community service, either paid or voluntary, previous experience of working in a public enquiry position such as customer services or for those who have studied a course in public services, such as:

- NVQ/SVQ Level 2 in Public Services
- BTEC First Diploma in Public Services
- Foundation Degree in Public Service.

The application process may include medical and security checks.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

The training for control room staff is organised by individual emergency services and may vary between organisations. Most of the training is completed on the job, working alongside experienced staff, but this may be supplemented by more formal courses.

Training modules depend on the organisation's area of specialism, but will include:

  • Community awareness
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Using the computer
  • Paperwork
  • Listening and questioning skills

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

An emergency services control room operator needs:

  • Excellent communication skills, both verbal and written.
  • To be able to work on their own initiative.
  • To be able to prioritise work and make decisions quickly.
  • To be flexible, responding to changes in situations.
  • To be an excellent listener, able to analyse and interpret information.
  • To remain calm when under pressure or dealing with distressed callers.
  • To be able to maintain accurate records.
  • To work as part of a team.

Your Long Term Prospects

With experience and training, it may be possible to progress from this position to a supervisory or team leading role. Some may move into a role providing training.

It may also be possible to move to a different administrative role within the emergency services.

Many of the skills involved in this job are highly regarded in the commercial workplace. There may be opportunities to move into a customer service position in any sector.

Get Further Information

National Police Recruitment Team
Website: www.policecouldyou.co.uk

NHS Careers, PO Box 2311, Bristol BS2 2ZX
Tel: 0845 6060 655
Website: www.nhscareers.nhs.uk

UK Fire Service Resources
Website: www.fireservice.co.uk

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