Emergency Communications Call Centre

It is the primary responsibility of the Garden Route Emergency Communications Call Centre and Emergency Medical Services (EMS) to act as the ‘middle-man’ when coordinating different types of emergency calls made by the public. Both call centres serve the public 24/7, 365 days a year, and are based at the Head Office of Garden Route District Municipality (GRDM) in George (54 York Street). The Unit forms part of Disaster Management.

Emergency Call Centre logo

Monthly call logs of both the call centres have, to date, reaching more than 200 000 calls per annum. This means that the average emergency call rate per month can easily reach 20 000 while during the festive season, call logs nearly double.

Emergency Communications Call Centre and EMS call centres differ in what type of emergencies they are mandated to address. It does not, however, mean that the call centres do not lend a hand to one another. If the public phones the wrong number, i.e. for an environmental emergency the EMS Call centre is contacted, the call is still dealt with by the receiver of the call. The GRDM EMC will dispatch this call to the appropriate line function responsible for executing the service.

Emergency Call Centre Coordinator, Tippie Bouwer (left), with Emergency CallCentre Operator Suenel Atkinson.

 Key differences between the EMS and Emergency Communication call centres:

EMS Emergency Communications
Contact Details 101 77 044 805 5071
Responsibilities Ambulance calls, including births, inter-hospital transfers, transport of the sick or injured, etc. An environmental crisis, including wildfires, chemical fires, oil spills, flooding etc.
Call Centre Operators 24 full-time staff, including a supervisor Five full-time staff, including a supervisor
Salaries Funded by the Western Cape Provincial Government. Garden Route District Municipality funds these salaries.

Both call centres rely on an integrated digital two-way radio mast communication system to effectively communicate to all the emergency personnel. Currently, GRDM is one of only two district municipalities in the Western Cape who has a fully integrated digital two-way radio system, which has 40 antennas linking to different organisations/stakeholders.

Emergency Call Centre Operators working 24/7, 365 days a year to serve communities of the Garden Route.
EMS Call Centre Operators working adjacent to the Emergency Call Centre of Garden Route DM.

The district did not invest in satellite communications, but rather in radio communications. “It is a very costly route to make use of satellites, and through research, the District has discovered that satellite dishes are far more sensitive to environmental factors like wind. This could potentially have serious consequences in the case of emergencies. If a satellite dish moves out of its programmed path due to the wind, it could send signals into space where it will be of no use to those who are supposed to respond and communicate issues. A satellite dish that has moved a few centimetres off of its programmed path could result in the signals missing a satellite by 100’s of metres. GRDM, therefore, sees it as far more important to invest in radio technology because of its reliability and accuracy.

A 30m mast is currently erected at GRDM, and it provides signals to more than 40 organisations.

The mast is the centre point of communications to 6 towers in the district. All the technology that GRDM and the Western Cape Government has invested in makes GRDM the best equipped Joint Operation Centre (JOC) in the Garden Route District.