11:33 pm, Monday 25 November, 2013
Firefighters that are working at Canberra’s triple-0 call centre are requesting to be moved as they are concerned that overhearing ambulance calls that involve traumatic situations is damaging their mental health.
However executives have rejected their call for a separate Fire and Rescue call centre and revealed their plan to review ACTs emergency communications hub. This means that firefighters could ultimately stop taking the emergency calls altogether.
At the moment the ACT Ambulance and Fire and Rescue services staff share the emergency ComCen in Fairbairn at the Emergency Services Agency’s headquarters.
Currently trained firefighters staff the phones for all fire-related emergencies and ambulance staff are located across the room dealing with calls directed to ACTAS.
It is this sharing of the space that has led to the concerns for the firefighters. Last week six internal workplace health and safety notices were dispensed by an ACT Fire and Rescue workplace health and safety officer last week.
These notices warned that the traumatic calls being taken by the ambulance staff were constantly being overheard by the firefighters and in particular, difficult calls that meant debriefings are held for ambulance staff – also being heard by the firefighters.
The notices warned that this breached work health and safety regulations and means that firefighters are being exposed to trauma, that in some cases, is reminding them of cases they have personally experienced.
It has been requested that the firefighters be moved for the interim time to the old call centre in Curtin that is still in use as a back-up and training facility.
However ESA commissioner Dominic Lane said that it is not appropriate to split the call centre and one of the options that will be looked at in the ACT Treasury review is replacing the firefighters with trained call takers.
The review will also assess the need for areas where firefighters can sleep on their shifts and whether they are redundant because of a new demand-driven roster system.