Internal Affairs

Emergency calls on the rise after near two-year decline

Following a dramatic downturn in call volumes during the various stages of lockdown in the past two years, the City’s Public Emergency Communication Centre is once again experiencing an uptick in the number of calls for help.

The City’s Public Emergency Communication Centre (PECC) was established at the turn of the century and recently marked its 22nd year in existence.

The PECC was recording between 235 000 and 240 000 incidents per annum in the years prior to 2020.

The number dropped to just over 185 000 in 2020/21, with dramatic decreases in the number of calls for medical assistance, assault cases, motor vehicle and pedestrian accidents.
‘The PECC statistics over the past four years reflect the turn that the world, and our lives took. The big drop in trauma cases came about because of the curfews, ban on alcohol sales and social activities. The increase in domestic violence and abuse calls during the period essentially validates the concerns at the time that people spending far more time in each other’s space, could result in an increase in such incidents. The increase in noise complaints was because we were relegated to our homes for long periods, and noise complaints are common in domestic settings, like loud music or parties, the use of loud machinery, dogs barking incessantly and so forth.

‘Attributing the drop in calls to greater accountability and tolerance would have been much preferred, but sadly the post pandemic upswing in calls for help or complaints about anti-social behaviour shows that nothing much has changed. So we continue working to ensure that this critical arm of our Safety and Security basket of services lends a hand to people when they need it most,’ said the City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Safety and Security, Alderman JP Smith.
The City’s emergency communicators undergo various facets of training, including:

Systems training, relating to the use of the Emergency Policing Incident Command (EPIC) system which is used to record all incidents, dispatch appropriate resources and monitoring those resources
Soft skills like effective listening, typing skills, stress management
Basic first-aid and fire safety training, to improve their understanding and ability to record incidents that are reported, and what type of assistance is required
A key element of the PECC’s function is education and awareness, with 189 such interventions undertaken in the last financial year, to highlight the work that the centre does, familiarise the public with the number, but also the important information that needs to be conveyed in an emergency situation.

‘Many of our emergency communicators will tell you that one of the most common hold ups is people’s inability to provide a correct location, or landmark that helps direct emergency vehicles. We’ve also come to understand that even when help is on the way, those first responders often struggle to find the address because some properties are not numbered. Recently, we have started partnering with Neighbourhood Watches on a campaign to ensure that every house has a street number on their property. While this is required in the City’s by-laws, more importantly, it could be the difference between life or death,’ added Alderman Smith.
The public is reminded to save the PECC number on their cellphones – 021 480 7700. If you are calling from a landline, the number is 107.

In addition, should you need help in an emergency, remember to make sure you have the information and details about the emergency ready, and that you have the exact location of the incident.

Source: City Of Cape Town