People | 2017-12-20

Police Air Service Flies the Flag for Control Room Awards

Source: ICCRA

The organisation that co-ordinates air support for police services in England and Wales has urged full support for the first awards to celebrate the unsung heroes of the UK’s control rooms.

The National Police Air Service (NPAS) provides 24/7 air cover, 365 days a year, and plays a vital role in responding to major incidents, including terrorism attacks.

NPAS also supported the emergency services response to the Grenfell Tower fire, one of Britain’s worst peacetime disasters

The Control Room Awards 2018 have been launched by APD Communications, a company specialising in mission critical solutions for the blue light agencies, and NPAS is the latest emergency services organisation to endorse the awards.

Inspector Simon Hepworth, NPAS Operations Centre Manager, said: “We’re wholly supportive of the Control Room Awards. They will recognise the highly professional and very skilled nature of the work of control room staff. “These are not call centre jobs – control room operators take calls, of course, but they also make very significant decisions that can make a difference between life and death.”

Insp Hepworth plans to nominate the entire NPAS Operations Centre team in the Control Room Awards Team of the Year category, following a year in which they have deployed air support to the Grenfell Tower blaze, five terrorist attacks and many other major incidents.

He added: “I see day in, day out the fantastic work our Operations Centre staff do and I’m acutely aware of the responsibility they shoulder.

“They have to make rapid and accountable decisions that consider issues of threat, harm and risk. Police forces’ requests for air support can range from apprehending a shoplifter right up to incidents such as Grenfell Tower and terrorist attacks. In each case the flight despatcher receiving the request has to make a judgement call on the deployment of aircraft.

“Every major incident requires air support and 2017 has been marked by quite a number of highly-critical incidents, including several terrorist attacks and the Grenfell Tower disaster. It’s been relentless, but the team has coped admirably. I can’t speak highly enough of them.”

NPAS operates a fleet of 19 helicopters from 15 air bases, supporting all the police forces across England and Wales and British Transport Police. These assets are deployed by 30 full-time equivalent flight despatchers based in the NPAS Operations Centre within the West Yorkshire Police headquarters at Wakefield.

Joanne Burton, one of NPAS’ five Flight Duty Officers, said staff in the Operations Centre performed highly-skilled roles.

She said: “NPAS is a relatively new organisation and some of the staff have come from a police control room background. They have had to step up their game within a new environment and develop new knowledge and skills. The Operations Centre is a cross between a police control room and air traffic control, in a way.

“People who work in control rooms tend to be self-sacrificing. They get on with the job and do it to the best of their ability, but their work goes largely unnoticed.

“Control room staff don’t shout about what they do, but it’s good to see that these awards will give them recognition. They add so much to what officers do out on the streets and, of course, in the air.”