Helping hands

An emergency situation often takes place when it`s least expected. Can South Africa`s contact centres cope with demand, when they too are sometimes the victims of disaster?

01 September 2008

Gauteng is a province in turmoil. Not only does it suffer from the largest number of road fatalities and incidents of violent crime in the country, but it's also afflicted with the highest rate of drowning - more so than the coastal regions. Gauteng is also infamous for its high rate of informal settlement fires. Add to this the fact that the province also has the largest chemical, transport and agriculture industries and something is bound to go wrong. And when it does, we rely on emergency services to resolve the situation.

One question on everyone's lips, however, is whether or not our emergency call centres are able to manage their own disasters? This was highlighted following the 10111 call centre crisis in April; the centre went down for hours, affecting its ability to react to emergency situations. This unfortunate incident underscored the need for reliable and sustainable emergency services contact centres. "The biggest problem in the emergency contact centre space is that people are not big on redundancy," says Colin Deiner, chief director of the Department of Local Government and head of the Gauteng Disaster Management Centre.

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