"It bloody took you long enough."
Not exactly how I expected to be greeted by a colleague.
She had a point though. For those of you who have never dialled 999 and asked for someone to come and turn your iron off, here is how it works when you do:
- You get through to the joint emergency services operator who will ask which service you want (ie police, fire, ambulance, coastguard, meals on wheels etc).
- They will put you through, but you will have to wait on the line while they relay your phone number across. You might think this would be electronically transmitted immediately. You might well think this.
- You get through to a call-taker. THIS IS NOT A POLICE OFFICER. He or she will try to grasp why you have called and start recording it into a typed log. Once some basic details are typed in, if they deem your call an emergency, the call-taker can "ping" it across to the control room. By now it will be about one minute since you dialled.
- A controller reads the log. They CAN dispatch a police officer now, but in all probability there are some checks they need to do first, such as whether your number or address has called the police before and the outcome. They will do police national computer checks on any names you give them. All of this will take 3-5 minutes.
- Now they will "grade" your call. Which means decide whether police will go with blue lights on, without, or quite frankly whether we'll bother at all.
- If you get the top grading, they will search for a resource. This can take the form of an electronic search for units who have booked themselves "available". They can also use the in-car radio sets to track the nearest unit (if the driver's turned it on and it's working - unlikely). Usually, they will call up on the air asking for a unit to volunteer.
- After a suitable pause to see if anyone else is going to volunteer, someone will. They then set off.
- By now it is 8-10 minutes since you called. How long you wait from this point depends on how close you were to the available police officer.
I sometimes wonder if Amazon.co.uk uses the same call-taking system when you place an order for a book. Although if you haven't received the book you are waiting for, there might be another reason.
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