Coastguard Call Handling Assessment Embarrasses Minister

Wednesday, February 16th, 2011

Following controversial plans to close 10 Coastguard stations around the UK, Shipping Minister Mike Penning caved to backbench pressure and released a Call Handling Risk assessment conducted by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency.

The Assessment, released last week, includes a last minute chapter entitled “Emergency Call Handling: Risk of Missed Calls” after concerns there was a risk 999 calls may be left unanswered.

While the Call Handling Risk Assessment came under fire for its hurried inclusion in the report, the results show consistent volumes of calls year on year, with clearly trackable seasonal peaks in the summer months. BT demonstrated a peak daily volume of less than 90 calls in July and August.

BT, Global Crossing and Cable and Wireless could provide no evidence of a Coastguard 999 call going unanswered.

The document details layered call handling provisions, with both Primary and Secondary Emergency Call Handling Agents, thirty-eight dedicated 999 lines, nineteen alternate numbers with overflow to flank stations. Call handling staff are ‘rostered for duty to meet the anticipated load, with surge capacity available at sub Centres.’

The Call Handling Risk Assessment concluded that ‘sufficient Primary/Secondary 999 lines and alternate telephone numbers are currently available to ensure that all 999/112 calls are answered.’

Spikes in call volumes can be managed with overflow call handling provisions.

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