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999 call handlers in Wales deal with 6.4m calls in record-breaking year

09 Sep 2022 3 minute read
Janette Carson, BT Call Advisor

BT’s 999 call handlers at its contact centre in the north of Wales handled a record-breaking 6.4 million calls last year (2021/22), an increase of 13% in call volumes compared to the previous year (2020/21).

The figures have been released by BT today to mark this year’s 999 Day (9 September).

Seven BT call centres handle all the UK’s 999 calls, located in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Across all BT’s 999 centres in the UK, the company handled a record breaking total of 39.8 million calls in 12 months.

July 2021 saw 911,700 calls answered in a single week, the highest weekly number of calls ever received.

In recent years, the number of 999 calls has increased dramatically, from around 25 million calls a year in 2000 to almost 40 million in the last year.

Since the 80th anniversary of the emergency number five years ago, the company has handled more than 176 million calls.

Jeremy Smitham, Senior Manager, Voice Services for BT’s Enterprise unit, said: “Our 999 call advisors do a fantastic job 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, supporting our emergency services.

“During the last year they have handled a record number of 999 calls, driven by factors including the EURO 2020 football tournament, the NHS managing a winter vomiting bug and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“A growing trend for staycation holidays also resulted in an uplift in calls around coastal and tourist destinations.

“Additionally, this summer’s heatwave, which recorded the hottest temperature ever in the UK, also led to a surge in 999 calls, with more than 3.6 million calls handled in July alone.”

New technology

New technology is also impacting the way people communicate with the emergency services. Since April 2018, all newly certified cars and small vans coming off the production line must be fitted with an emergency call system, known as eCall, a safety feature that is automatically activated in the event of an incident when the airbags are deployed.

In 2018/19 a total of 1,265 eCalls were received, but in 2021/22 this figure increased to 66,792.

In June this year, BT 999 call advisors were trained ahead of the launch of a new emergency video relay service, ‘999 BSL’.

This service enables deaf and hard of hearing people who prefer to communicate using British Sign Language (BSL), to contact 999 via a dedicated mobile app or website.

A quick tap or click on the emergency 999 button opens a video connection to a BSL Interpreter, who then contacts a BT call advisor, before being put through to the requested emergency authority.

The interpreter relays the conversation with the ambulance, coastguard, fire or police in the callers’ local area, allowing deaf users to independently make emergency BSL calls via 999 advisors, 24 hours a day.

Jeremy Smitham

Mr Smitham added: “It is imperative that the emergency services can react quickly to critical situations, and I am incredibly proud of the work BT does to support these vital services.

“The past few years have seen a consistent increase in the number of calls being handled by our specially trained teams.

“As we manage the growing number of calls from a variety of different platforms, our commitment to all the emergency services remains unwavering, ensuring that they can stay connected even in the face of unprecedented call volumes.”

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