Implement call filters by the call handling agent

Control Measure Knowledge

If the volume of emergency calls overwhelms a fire control’s emergency call management capacity, the call handling agent may be able to assist by asking agreed call filtering questions.

Call filtering is a tool to help the fire control commander manage excessive emergency call volumes. Other tools include call redistribution or buddy and consortium arrangements. These options are not mutually exclusive and may be used on their own or alongside each other. When deciding whether to implement call filtering, the fire control commander should consider:

  • Which calls they want to receive, such as those with people, property or the environment at risk
  • Which calls they want to filter out, such as lower priority calls where there is no immediate risk

Filter questions

The call handling agent should discuss with the fire control commander of an affected fire control whether to ask emergency callers who are not distressed filter questions, before connecting the emergency call to a fire control. The wording of filter questions (which will be agreed between the fire control commander and the call handling agent) will vary depending on the situation.

Filter questions should be carefully worded to filter out lower priority calls effectively, helping fire control personnel to prioritise higher-priority calls, while reducing the risk of not identifying additional, unrelated incidents (as far as is reasonably practicable). The use of filter questions should be carefully considered to ensure the most appropriate classification, prioritisation and response to incidents possible.

Call filtering could be considered for a variety of scenarios, including – but not limited to – situations where call volumes have increased due to:

  • Flooding
  • High winds
  • Wildfires
  • Significant fires seen from a long distance

Examples of filter questions may include:

  • ‘Are you calling about the flooding in Devizes?’
    • If yes, ‘Is water entering your property?’
  • ‘Is your call about a fallen tree in the Cleveland area?’
    • If yes, ‘Is anybody’s life in danger?’
  • ‘Are you calling about the fire at Buncefield oil terminal?’
    • If yes, ‘Are you calling from the oil terminal?’
    • Or ‘Do you have information about anybody whose life is in danger?’

These questions are provided as examples and are not intended to be an exhaustive list of the questions that could be used.

The fire control commander should confirm with the call handling agent that they have accurately recorded and understood the questions that have been agreed. They should also confirm how long it will take for the call handling agent to implement the call filter questions.

Capturing relevant details of discussions and agreements between the fire control commander and the call handling agent, such as through the recording of calls and annotation of incident logs, will provide an audit trail that may be of benefit later.

Strategic Actions

Tactical Actions