Julie Burgess, a resource deployment officer (RDO, sometimes known as a “dispatcher”) for Devon and Cornwall Police has been honoured in the first national awards for staff who work in the control rooms of the UK’s blue light services. Not on the front line, vital control room staff can tend to be forgotten.
Julie was recognised with a Special Recognition Award for Bravery and Courage in the APD Control Room Awards 2018. The awards celebrate the extraordinary and selfless contribution of behind-the-scenes staff who play a critical role in response to emergency incidents day in and day out, often dealing with harrowing and distressing situations, in control rooms the length and breadth of the UK.
Julie’s award relates to an off-duty incident though. She showed phenomenal bravery during an incident on her way home from work in the Force’s control room in Plymouth.
Chief Superintendent Glen Mayhew of Devon and Cornwall Police said:
“Julie was on her way home from the Force control room in Plymouth in January of this year when she saw a man on the wrong side of the barriers of the Tamar Bridge. Julie parked her car safely on the bridge and climbed across the bridge infrastructure to access the pedestrian cantilever and return back to where she had seen the man. She spoke with the man and held on to him until officers arrived to bring him to safety. Her speedy response was key to saving a life.”
Chief Supt Mayhew is commander of the Devon & Cornwall Police and Dorset Police Alliance Operations Department.
He continued: “The police staff who work in our control rooms are ordinary people doing an extraordinary job, given the huge range of issues and incidents that they have to respond to and skills that they need.
Julie’s exceptional conduct during this incident is a reflection of the high standards maintained by all of our control room staff and we are all extremely proud of her.”
Julie is trained as an ECC (Enhanced Crisis Communicator) who are used in their role to make contact via phone or text with people in crisis. She says: “ECCs have been trained to communicate with those threatening self-harm or suicide. Their role is to provide an early intervention tactic to the Force Incident manager (FIM) and control room supervisors when managing incidents of this type.
This assists in bridging the gap whilst negotiators or other assets are deployed to an incident. I used my ECC training in this incident, but also built a rapport with the person so that they trusted me.”
The winners in the first national awards to celebrate the life-saving and life-changing work of staff in critical control rooms, run by APD Communications, were chosen from more than 200 nominations and announced at an awards ceremony in Nottingham.
APD Managing Director Mike Isherwood, one of the Control Room Awards judges, said of contact centre and control room staff: “Their amazing work is normally hidden from public view, so we’re delighted that, working with our partners, we have been able to give them the recognition and profile they so richly deserve.”