Southern Communications 5th anniversary

Southern Communications 5th anniversary

Canterbury

Five years ago almost to the day, the Southern Communication Centre took over emergency communications for the Canterbury Police District. Over the next year the centre took responsibility for emergency communications for all the other South Island police districts.

"There were a few dire predictions of how it would all turn out," says Canterbury District Commander John REILLY, (who was the first Superintendent in charge of the centre). "Five years ago when we started there was an enormous amount of pressure, mostly self imposed. Time frames were tight and the techs were ahead of us so there was minimal time for training and to get around the districts and explain the changes and their implications to staff."

One of the earlier centres to open, Wellington, had problems with the mapping system and had to drop the Wairapapa area for a period, leaving staff in the south wondering what they would encounter.

"From the first day staff had a very positive attitude," says Superintendent REILLY. "There were problems such as the mapping was not as robust as we would have liked, but everyone made the system work. It was right on the Christmas rush and they were really a great bunch."

John REILLY was then promoted to District Commander Otago and was there when the Comms Centre took over that district. "They delivered the service and quality that I expected," he says. "All the country cops loved it, the service they got was excellent. However it did not make such an impact on the metro areas of Dunedin and Invercargill.

The new CARD communication centres in Christchurch, Wellington and Auckland took over all emergency communications while the districts retained their local calls. All three are able to work together and will pick up overflow calls or when another centre goes down.

The Fire Service moved their emergency call centres into the same premises within 18 months and have worked alongside Police since.

"All the computers are backed up and there is no reason why they cannot cope with anything," says Sergeant Roy APPLEY. "There is ongoing maintenance and over the five years all the technology has been replaced with the latest available. For example, new servers were installed last week."

Many of the staff have been working in the centre since the beginning so there is a core of expertise which is unusual for call centres, which often have a high turnover.

Some of the major incidents handled over the five years, which stand out to staff include several plane accidents, in Foveaux Strait with tragic loss of life, and the plane flown by two Japanese which went into the sea off north Canterbury. There have been several major homicides and shootings such as the murder of Max Shannon. These are all initially handled by the Communications Centre before being
taken over at local district level.

Maggie LEASK, Canterbury District Police, 03 363 7815, 021 663 701