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Key workers in Wales handle nearly 16,000 emergency calls every day

Credit: BT

BT’s 999 key workers at its call centre in the north of Wales handled more than 5.7 million emergency calls in the past year, it was revealed today.

The company released the latest 999 call handling volumes for its emergency call centre in Wales – with agents there handling nearly 16,000 calls every day – as BT joins the emergency services to mark this year’s 999 Day [9 September], an annual celebration of the work of emergency services across the UK.

BT’s 999 agents are the calm and confident voice answering every 999 call. Six BT call centres across the UK handle all the UK’s 999 calls in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, passing calls to the relevant emergency service.

The number of 999 calls across the UK handled by BT has increased significantly in recent years, jumping from around 25 million calls a year in 2000, to over 33 million calls in the last year – with nearly a fifth of those answered by handlers at the Wales call centre. When the UK entered into lockdown in March, BT 999 call advisors were given key worker status to fulfil their critical role answering 999 calls.

Across the UK, during the Covid-19 peak, BT’s 999 call handlers were responding to unprecedented levels of demand, answering a daily average of 105,000 emergency calls. The busiest periods saw 999 agents handling a call every three seconds. To meet this demand, BT trained an additional 100 staff to support with answering calls, including a number of volunteers who put themselves forward to help out.

BT has been handling all the UK’s 999 calls for more than 80 years.

Mary Davies, a BT 999 agent at the Wales contact centre, has been handling emergency calls for 53 years. She said: “Back in the day, we had three people answering one 999 call and we had to check the location of each call manually. Today, our technology has advanced to enable us to track the accuracy of the call and to pinpoint the location, meaning we’re able to easily pass information to the emergency authorities.

“I really enjoy working in such a fantastic team at BT. When we’re under pressure, such as recently during the Covid-19 peak, we all pull together to put the needs of the public first.”

BT’s Advanced Mobile Location (AML) technology provides a critical role to the emergency services, providing the exact location of a 999 caller by sending an automatic text to the 999 call handler. The majority of mobile phones (70%) – including Android and Apple smartphones – can now detect that an emergency call is being made, with the caller’s precise GPS position being sent to the 999 service during the call and pinpointing their position to within just three metres in some cases. This plays a really important role in helping the emergency services reach incidents more quickly and save lives.

Karen Wyn Williams, contact centre manager at BT’s 999 centre in the north of Wales, said: “Many people are unaware of the crucial role BT staff play in supporting our emergency services.

“Our teams answer every initial 999 call and my colleagues here at our Wales centre handled an average of nearly 16,000 calls every day last year.

“We’re proud to support our emergency services and join together today with the nation in celebrating the amazing work they do.”

Sam Toombs, BT Enterprise Corporate and Public Sector Director for Wales, said: “At BT we’re proud to play a critical role in supporting the outstanding work of the emergency services. During the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic our 999 call advisors faced a significant increase in calls, and have gone above and beyond to provide a critical role to the public.

“Our AML Technology also enables our call handlers to pinpoint a 999 caller to within three metres in seconds. This could mean, for example, being able to tell which side of the motorway the call has come from, helping an ambulance or fire engine get to a scene ten minutes earlier, which is potentially life-saving. Our 999 call advisors and the emergency services do phenomenal work and we’re delighted to be celebrating them on Emergency Services Day.”