THE City of Surrey has proclaimed April 11-17, 2021, Public Safety Telecommunicators Week, in recognition of the vital role telecommunications operators play in keeping the public and first responders safe. Over 90 staff work around the clock in Surrey RCMP’s Operational Communications Centre (OCC), to answer, triage and dispatch 911 and non-emergency calls.
In 2020, Surrey RCMP telecommunications operators talked to more than 305,000 people who called for police service, which generated more than 200,000 operational files. The OCC is a fast-paced environment requiring a strong ability to multi-task and switch between a non-urgent call and an unfolding, emergency file within any given shift. Telecoms operators are the first line of contact between the public and police, and an important lifeline to keep officers on the road safe.
Telecoms operators are trained to ask a series of questions to callers in order to understand when, what and where the incident is taking place in order to dispatch officers. One of the best ways to help is to follow their lead in answering the questions.
“We recognize that people are often calling the police during very stressful or traumatic circumstances,” explains OCC Manager Lindsay Scott. “Our job is to collect all the important information we can to help officers respond in the quickest and safest way possible.”
Last year the OCC fielded over 46,000 false or abandoned 911 calls, tying up significant resources. Some of the common calls include pocket-dials, devices like smart watches that inadvertently call 911, or kids playing with old cell phones that still have the ability to make an emergency call.
In order to reduce the number of false 911’s it is important to use 911 for emergency situations only, such as an immediate threat to safety or crime in progress. All other calls should be directed to the Surrey RCMP non-emergency at 604-599-0502. Certain crime types can also be reported online.
If you dial 911 accidentally, stay on the line to talk with a call taker who can verify your safety. If you hang up police must take additional steps to call you back or have an officer attend in person.