For the last decade, BT has been running ECAS in Ireland, providing a Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP) that is among the best in the world. We answer around 6,000 calls a day, and 2.37 million calls a year. What’s even better is that we typically get to these calls in 0.7 seconds, and guarantee 99.999% availability. When the Coronavirus struck, we had to revisit the foundation of an essential service that could become even more important during a national medical emergency to ensure we could continue to provide this life saving service.
Today, people expect to be connected to the emergency services in seconds. We’ve always challenged ourselves to connect people faster and more efficiently, but when the global pandemic broke out, this made things much more difficult. We had the challenge of delivering an essential service in a radically different landscape, and in the case of ECAS, there was no room for error. We had to ensure that people could still connect to the required emergency service at all times. With remote working required and following government guidelines the challenge was how we could adopt these changes in our business plan to ensure the service is still running smoothly.
For most staff working from home was pretty straightforward, but for call handlers this was a bit more technical. ECAS is run over an IP network, meaning emergency calls can be diverted anywhere. The plan was to connect homes to data centres over a virtually protected network with advanced security protocols – but we had to make sure we followed Government guidelines on physical distancing and cleaning. The first thing we did was move the desks as far apart as we could. Next, strict guidelines were introduced on people coming and going from the premises, and making sure that the building was cleaned twice a day to ensure the safety of our employees.
Reacting quickly, while following Government guidelines meant that our call handlers could work from home if they needed to, but were also still able to come to work in a safe environment. ECAS was able to run as normal during lockdown with service being fully functional, we have done the groundwork and prepared our employees to make sure the service would continue as usual if any issues occurred.