News : NSW Ambulance Service Launches No Excuse for 000 Abuse Campaign in Dubbo
Dubbo, NSW, Australia, June 8, 2016 -- Emergency services call takers are being threatened and subjected to sexual comments on a daily basis.
The disturbing and growing trend was revealed on Tuesday when the NSW Ambulance Service launched its 'No Excuse For 000 Abuse' campaign in Dubbo.
The campaign is made up of eight posters and educational material which will be rolled out in the media and on social media
While a dedicated team of call takers went about their business on Tuesday, Western Control Centre manager Max Stonestreet and operations centre officer Kathryn Playford outlined some of the abuse copped while staff manned the phones.
"We get a range of every kind of abuse imaginable," Ms Playford said.
"We have people that yell at us, swear at us, sexually explicit and suggestive calls. You name it we've had it.
"We're all resilient and we're trained to be quite resilient however when people personally threaten your family or yourself you'd be lying if you said it didn't affect you, and you'd be lying if you said you went home and didn't take some of that with you."
Mr Stonestreet said calls from panicked members of the public are par for the course when it comes to the job.
But he said the time had come for there to be zero tolerance when it comes to abuse of people who dedicate their time to help.
"There's been cases of "I've got a gun, I know where you work. I'm going to get you after work" or people yelling at call centre takers, or even being uncooperative," he said.
"There is also sexual comments, or threats of physical and emotional abuse and they are starting to take their toll.
"People need to realise we are here to help 000 callers, not be hurt by 000 callers. We understand callers are under a great deal of stress but if our call takers are to do their job effectively and go home to their loved ones without the job affecting them unduly we need cooperation.
"A call taker on average take between 70-80 calls a shift, and we're seeing six or seven calls per shift that involve a significant amount of some kind of abuse, and when you tag that onto the other things they have to deal with it becomes very traumatic."
Peer support and professional counselling services are on hand for staff and their families if they need that level of support, with Ms Playford admitting that when times get tough in the call centre the troops tend to rally.
But she said the emotional toll from an abusive call can be hard to get over
"It can be very hard to bounce back and take the next call however we are very good here and the staff are very supportive," she said.
"It shouldn't be tolerated and shouldn't happen. This campaign brings about public awareness and people just don't believe it happens.
"Operations officers are highly-trained and we offer support until crews arrive on the scene.
"The people who ring, it's usually the worst time of their life, very emotive, they think something really terrible has happened to someone they love and they lash out because they just want help, they want an ambulance there right now.
"An ambulance has usually been dispatched and is on their way while we continue to get the rest of the information, and we can update our crews so they get as much information as they can before they get to the scene."
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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