Why did you join the control room?
On leaving school I worked at Royal Mail in various roles and departments and after 12 years I was ready for a challenge. I joined West Yorkshire Police as a control room dispatcher in 2006 and enjoyed 7 years in that role. Although it was a very stressful role it balanced out knowing I made a difference. Making a difference is what appealed to me. I did not feel I was confident enough to become a police officer but wanted to be a part of the police family and the role of dispatcher fit the bill for me at the time. I later transferred to be a flight dispatcher for National Police Air Service as I was ready for another challenge but still wanted to be part of a police control room environment.
Tell us what is like working in an emergency control room?
Working for NPAS as a flight dispatcher is a challenging job at times. Although we do not receive the high volume of calls in comparison to local force control rooms, the calls we do receive are risk to life and priority incidents from all forces nationwide in England and Wales. We have to follow the National Decision Making Model and assess each incident on its threat risk and harm. This can be challenging at times as the decision you make could impact on the outcome of a search for a high risk missing person. We have to assess the incident as a viable task, countering the facts of availability of aircraft, availability of crew, distance and area to search, weather conditions, fuel state, maintenance and engineering. All of which impact on the decision to deploy.
The most rewarding part of my job is hearing about the positive outcomes of tasks that air support have assisted with.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
The most rewarding part of my job is hearing about the positive outcomes of tasks that air support have assisted with. Forces up and down the country do acknowledge the work NPAS provides when there is a positive outcome from a search and it is appreciated, especially when it is said we could not have done it without you! It is always rewarding when a suspect is caught with assistance of air support but when it is a risk to life search for a vulnerable person due to age, mental health or otherwise it brings a real sense of achievement. Although my colleagues and I are just a small cog in a big wheel, we all play a part and without us, the big wheel wouldn’t turn.
What makes your job challenging and how do you overcome this?
In my role as flight dispatcher I do come across some challenges in relation to aircraft deployment. There are times when I have similar high priority incidents and have to make a decision on which task takes priority. The challenge arises when I have a limited number of aircraft available as they are also committed on other tasks. This is why it is important for the forces to provide me with as much detail regarding the incident as possible for myself to assess the likelihood of a positive outcome. I can make the decision to divert one aircraft from a lower priority incident if required, providing a rationale for this decision to the forces. I interrogate the forces further if more information is required to make the decision.
What does International Control Room Week mean to you and the team?
It is always taken as a positive when the work you do is acknowledged and appreciated. Raising morale is very important in such a role as an emergency control room. This is a good way of doing just that.