WORCESTER News reporter Tom Banner was granted access to West Mercia Police HQ to see the work performed by call handlers.

Based at Hindlip Hall, near Worcester, the West Mercia Operations and Communications Centre handles all calls made to 999 and 101 for the region, with more than 1,500 calls to both 999 and 101 per day, with summer representing one of the busiest periods faced by call handlers.

Hayley Newell, who has been a call handler for just over a year, spoke about her job and the pressures she faces.

She said: “Today I am handling calls for Herefordshire so what I do is as soon as the call comes in, I grade it in terms of how urgent it is and then co-ordinate with the officers in the area to see what the best response is.

“When you get several emergency calls in at once it can be really challenging and quite intense, so we have to be good at prioritising and working with the officers on the ground to know what the best option is.

“One of the big challenges comes from calls that are not police matters.

“One that sticks out in my mind was someone calling saying their bank card had been swallowed by a cash machine and they needed the police.

“What is really important is making sure people know what the right number is to call.

“It is 999 in an emergency and 101 in a non-emergency but it helps to just think before calling and asking yourself if it is really something we can help with.”

As part of her job, Hayley has to co-ordinate the officers on the ground, as well as partner agencies such as the Fire and Rescue service, taking into account the various complexities each job requires.

Being able to co-ordinate with different agencies is vital, as they can offer assistance to make the job of the officers on the ground easier, such as the fire service providing ladders and entry to buildings.

Chief Inspector Gareth Morgan, who is head of the OCC after being a police officer for the last 16 years, said that the work of the OCC is vital, but forms part of a much wider effort.

He said: “We have got a great team who work incredibly hard, but we are just one cog in a much bigger machine working with other branches and other agencies.

“For me what we want to make clear is to call 999 in a genuine emergency where someone’s life is at risk or a crime is about to happen.

“What we find is a lot of people use it for non emergencies which puts real emergencies behind in the queue.

“101 is the non-emergency number and there are other ways that people can contact us such as going online and finding the details of your local safer neighbourhood team so you can contact your local police officers directly.”

On average the OCC receives 375 calls to 999 each day, although during the World Cup last year they received in excess of 500 per day with the busiest day being July 7 where nearly 600 calls were received in a day.

On average they receive more than 1,300 101 calls each day.

In July last year the average rose to 1,500 due to the World Cup and hot weather.

Throughout the summer, the OCC sees an increase in calls as the nights get lighter and people stay out longer.

The public should only call 999 if there is a threat or danger to life, a crime is ongoing or has just happened, suspicious behaviour which requires immediate attention, you have immediate concerns for someone’s safety or there is a dangerous incident on a road.

101 is used to report crimes that have already happened, communicate with police about an ongoing case, or make them aware of policing issues in the area.