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Culture of Mistrust in 111


3 February 2005
PR 011/05

Culture of Mistrust in 111

There is a culture of mistrust among rural communities in the 111 system's ability to handle a rural emergency, according to Federated Farmers of New Zealand's submission to a review of police communications centres.

"Nearly two-thirds of members who responded to a survey doubted the ability of 111 centres to generate an adequate response to a rural emergency," said FFNZ Vice President Charlie Pedersen.

The submission makes a dozen recommendations on how police could restore confidence in the 111 system, a crucial part of emergency services.

One recommendation calls for a protocol to ensure that 111 centres immediately inform local police and other relevant services during an emergency.

"The submission also highlights a desperate need for technology that would quickly identify the location of 111 calls, and calls for more resources and training to help 111 personnel quickly identify property locations.

"We also want a review of the 'locking lines open' policy which prevents 111 callers from hanging up and calling their neighbours or others to help in an emergency," Mr Pedersen said.

Mr Pedersen called for an overarching strategy across police that pulls together all the recommendations to make the best use of available resources.

"Rural communities have great relationships with their local constables. Farmers want a system that supports local police to do the best possible job"

Mr Pedersen spoke on the federation's written submission today during a presentation to the external review panel in Wellington.

The submission is based on feedback from 350 members, some of whom passed on anecdotes about their unsatisfactory dealings when dialling 111.

He also warned the Government that already-stretched police resources would be further strained if it goes ahead with plans to allow anyone, no matter their character or intent, to access private land.

ENDS


SUBMISSION TO THE


NZ Police Communications Centres External Review

BY


Federated Farmers of New Zealand (Inc)

17 December 2004

Contact: Matt Harcombe
Senior Policy Advisor
P O Box 5242
Dunedin
Phone (03) 477 7356
Fax (03) 479 0470
mharcombe@fedfarm.org.nz
INTRODUCTION

Federated Farmers of New Zealand (Inc) is a voluntary, primary sector organisation nationally representing approximately 18,500 farming members and their families. The Federation maintains seven industry groups, representing the specific interests of meat and fibre, dairy, arable (grains and seeds), South Island high country farmers, mohair producers, rural butchers, young farmers and beekeepers. Federated Farmers has a long history of representing the needs and interests of New Zealand’s farming communities, primary producers and agricultural exporters.

One of the five key strategic outcomes for the Federation is to ensure that our members’ families and staff are able to access services essential to the needs of the rural community. Within this outcome the Federation seeks that rural communities have access to emergency services at a level that retains community confidence. Federated Farmers has a commitment to monitor law and justice policy initiatives to ensure adequate account is taken of specific rural needs.

METHODOLOGY

In responding to the review of the 111 police communications centres, Federated Farmers undertook a random email survey of 5000 members asking a number of questions that sought to gain an understanding of the confidence of the rural community in the ability of the 111 service to provide an appropriate response. The following submission has been developed as a result of that survey, anecdotal evidence provided by our members and from within the Federation’s policy developed by members over a number of years.

An electronic questionnaire (Appendix 1) was designed, tested and peer reviewed. It was then sent, on Wednesday 8 December to 5000 members selected at random from the Federation’s membership database. The responses were to be returned by Tuesday 14 December. There were 350 respondents.

The results were then collated and analysed, and formed into a submission, again with peer review by both elected members and staff.

POLICY FRAMEWORK

To appreciate the context in which these results are presented it is necessary to understand the underlying policy framework that represents crime prevention and law and order enforcement, and also what measures are currently being taken to address crime and personal security in rural New Zealand.

The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) together with the New Zealand Police and other appropriate Government agencies are working within the framework of a Crime Reduction Strategy that provides the overarching direction for addressing crime in New Zealand.

The Crime Reduction Strategy is a broad goal under which the Government has identified seven key priority areas. Rural crime is not mentioned specifically in any of these priority areas, although it has equal importance when addressing the nature of crime, whether it occurs in urban or rural areas.

The seven key priority areas are:
 family violence, including child abuse
 other violence, including sexual violence
 serious traffic offending
 youth offending and re-offending
 burglary
 theft of and from cars
 organised crime

There is recognition by the New Zealand Police and Government that the level of service to isolated communities is limited and discussion revolves around cost benefit analysis and whether resources should be placed into prevention or into response and apprehension of criminals.

“In order that an acceptable service is provided to victims, priority is placed on reacting to crime. This creates a tension when evidence is emerging that relatively modest investment in prevention programmes can steer people away from crime. Geographical variances in resource allocation complicate this problem. In the absence of robust and agreed benefit-cost methodology that clearly differentiates economic and safety issues, these decisions will continue to be challenged.”

The ability of the Police to respond appropriately and in a timely manner is largely dependant on the effectiveness of the 111 communications centres to receive and disseminate information.
KEY FINDINGS

64% of respondents expressed no confidence in the ability of the 111 service to respond adequately to a rural emergency.

57% of respondents would not call 111 as a first port of call.

80% of respondents believe that the centralised communications centres are not performing for rural communities.

88% of members believe there need to be stronger links between communications centres and local response services in responding to 111 calls.

50% of the respondents to the survey had called 111 in the last five years to access emergency services.

Of those who had used the111 service to access police:
62% of callers were happy with the way the call was handled
Only 45% were happy with the subsequent Police response.

23% of survey respondents had called someone else prior or in preference to calling 111 such as local emergency services or neighbours.

Of those who had called the fire service
71% were happy with the handling of the call
74% were happy with the subsequent response

Of those who had called the ambulance service
77% were happy with the handling of the call
73% were happy with the subsequent response

KEY ISSUES

There is a culture of mistrust among rural communities in the ability of the 111 system to effectively ensure an appropriate response for rural communities. Our members have responded with a number of incidents where 111 communications have not resulted in an effective response;

We had a large number (approx 40) of “Boy Racers” at our intersection – about 500 metres from our home. We called 111 repeatedly – no response team came. The woman at 111 suggested my husband go to corner and attain some number plates which against my advice he did and was “ruffed up” by the boys. I was disturbed that we were advised to put ourselves in a position of risk. We eventually rang the fire brigade who came within about 10 minutes. When complaining the next day to local police the comment was that there is no difference from my husband going to a scene of this nature than one of the local police who are on their own doing the same. We understand that they do not want to put their own persons in a position of risk but could not believe their attitude especially when the person who handled the 111 call had suggested that my husband do exactly that.

Husband was being threatened at back door by masked men. Rang 111 but too many questions were asked while husband was being harassed outside. I was having to answer so many things wondering whether or not he was still going to be alive when I opened the door again, let alone what might happen to us next. Husband may have been brutally wounded if friend had not intervened. Police took a very long time to come to our aid. Men had gone by that time.

Local stations too busy giving out speeding fines and unable to cope with local emergencies. Calls routed to Hastings because no one available in Waipukurau after 4.00pm in afternoon. Our daughter went missing from her Grandmothers house. 111 ended up in Auckland because of overload on Wellington line. Response was zero. 1 and a half hours later she was found, still had not seen a policeman, I then rang to cancel the call. Next day we had the Child welfare around to offer counselling and to check up on our ability to raise a child.

I called 111 once to alert police that someone was on our property shining a torch around in the middle of the night. My husband was away overseas & I was home alone, in the middle of nowhere with two young children (which I told the operator). No one bothered to come & check it out or even phoned back later to see if everything was ok. As a matter of fact, I never heard from them again.

Locking lines open to the scene is causing some problems for rural callers who need to advise other support services or neighbours of the emergency.

We rang 111 because an old man and his two young grandchildren drifted out to sea after a mechanical failure (in a boat). We had to spell where we lived several times they had no idea where we were situated. My husband wanted to hang up and ring the local sea rescue group but was not allowed to. He was still on the phone after a surfer paddled out on his board and towed them in. They were within 200 metres of the shore when the rescue boat came into the bay and my husband was still on the phone, some 40 minutes later.

The advice given to callers has to be consistent and provide a realistic scenario to the caller about the response that will be dispatched.

Working to stop goat shooters about a month ago. I called the local police station (Napier) who put me on to the Wellington dispatch. I had to explain every detail of where I lived and where the shooting was taking place. I gave up on them and hung up. I did this because the shooters were going to leave the farm. I had no cell phone coverage or back up from anyone let alone the Police. Wellington rang back and wanted more detail before I left the house but I left my wife to talk to them. At no time was car support or Police support offered. Our local Police officer was on a training day. So it was me alone to take a rifle off the offenders in an area with no back up. I went to the local Police station to hand the rifle in but had to take it home for the day as there was no one in attendance. The support from our local Police officer was top class after the event and he is to be commended but the 111 service is not acceptable.

We had a break in and the burglars were still on the section - we were told not to touch any thing because of finger prints and that the police would be there some time in the next 1 - 3 days. We had broken windows, doors etc where they had entered, the house had been turned up side down while we were milking and they had stolen our car keys and our road bike keys and made several attempts through out that night to take our car and bike and one of the phone operators in Auckland told us the police could be up to 3 days away!


Local knowledge is paramount in the ability to quickly respond. Most local services know the names of people and where they live and will be able to quickly identify and assess an appropriate response. There is under utilised capacity in the rural community that may reduce the pressure on limited police resources. Communications between centralised 111 centres and local emergency services appear to be a problem.

During the February flood I discovered two of the neighbours stranded in the middle of our (Mangawhero) river and called 111. The operator took the call very efficiently and passed it on to Wanganui Police who passed it on to the Army to organize a helicopter but nothing happened. After some time I rang my son in Palmerston North who checked with the Police who said the Helicopter was on its way. They were eventually rescued by Wanganui Aero Work as their brother had got them so he could look over the farm.

I think Police in rural areas are disadvantaged in that many call outs have to be attended alone. Strengthening volunteer groups to assist police in rural areas can only benefit the area and policing pressures. Many rural locals know the areas well and how neighbours operate therefore having valuable inside knowledge which may save time and lives in an emergency. This is especially true in the area of local helicopter pilots.

There are times when local Constable is working out of district or on leave, and Police have to come from neighbouring areas – that takes time. And we haven’t got our Police 4WD any more, so that will make a difference in adverse weather conditions.


Communications centre staff need to be “geographically aware”. This does not mean knowing every road in every district but an extremely good working knowledge and an awareness of proximity to stations and appropriate response.

Anytime I have ever had to call 111 the biggest problem we have encountered is trying to make sure that the operator understands the exact location of the problem. Our district has adopted rapid numbers for all rural areas, but that doesn’t mean the response time is any quicker as the person handling the call usually has no idea of the local area/quickest routes etc.

A suicide on the farm years ago, the 111 call went through to the Christchurch branch, they had no idea where Ashburton was (they thought it was near Darfield), so we rang Ashburton on the local number, they responded straight away.

We should include our rapid number. Also some sort of sticker to be placed on the phone for in an emergency - often it is not the owner of the phone having to place the 111 call, often it is a stranger or friend. Each phone in every house should have the rapid number clearly on it next to the 111 emergency number.

Limited cell phone coverage is severely compromising both the ability to call and the ability to respond to emergencies in isolated rural areas.

We desperately need a better communication system regarding phone lines. Often our district is left without power and/or phone services and there are only a couple of places on top of Saddles that mobile phones can be used. I was called out to an emergency situation in the district once under these circumstances and it was not pleasant and certainly not suitable. We need better cell phone coverage in these rural areas so we can reach the emergency services when needed - that includes police and fire.

We have a large property on the coast that is very remote and can have poor telephone links, and no cellphone coverage.

There are extremely positive examples of local police reacting efficiently and effectively to emergencies in rural areas when contacted directly. There is a high degree of mutual respect, particularly for sole charge constables in rural areas.

Very good community relationship with the local police officer who lives fairly locally, but can't expect to call him in an emergency.

Efforts should be made to improve communications in remote areas. In my role within the community the interaction and response from police has been excellent.

The arresting police officer was "first class."

We have a good relationship with our local policeman – most locals do.

Stock theft, poaching and other illegal shooting on isolated properties are compromising the security of rural families and can lead to potentially life threatening situations.

Four abusive and obnoxious pig hunters would not leave our property even after the valley residents had assembled at our property, we called police who arrived one and a half hours after the call and four and a half hours after the offenders were intercepted by ourselves and the neighbours. The policeman (one) tried to convince us to let them go through our place hunting.

Rural families often are faced with “first on the scene” simply because of their location. They play an important role in ensuring rapid response to emergencies.

The person whom I spoke to could not locate the bridge (from where I thought the man was going to jump). Told me there was no such bridge in that area. I have lived here nearly 20 years.

We live on a corner of SH8 that seems to have runs of car accidents. I make very sure that when phoning 111 I tell the operator my rapid number, and then EMPHASISE they note it is LAWRENCE in OTAGO that is our nearest centre for emergency services. But recently the local fire brigade was directed to Mill Road in Lawrence instead of Mill Road in Queenstown, and have heard of several other incidents with similar mix-ups.


RECOMMENDATIONS

 Protocols need to be introduced to ensure that if possible local police and or emergency services are contacted immediately in priority emergencies. District boundaries need to be broken down so that the service that is geographically closest is the first to be informed and if available can respond immediately.

 There is an immediate requirement to formalise rapid number identification of rural properties and to implement this as a primary identification and location tool in an emergency response. This must be carried out within a framework of ensuring ultimate security of landowner identification and details.

 Existing and emerging technology should be investigated that provides immediate location and nearest service response e.g. Immediate GIS locations and mapping

 There is a need for communications centre staff to undergo further training in geographic locations and how to link these with appropriate local response.

 In order to effectively service the rural community, specific rural response training should be given, to ensure that protocols are in place to utilise all possible resources to effectively respond to rural emergencies.

 A specific rural strategy should be introduced across police that investigates best practice prevention, response, allocation and utilisation of appropriate resources.

 The response and diversion of calls from the local station needs to be addressed. There should be a dedicated back up team that provides consistency for callers who are unable to reach an off duty officer.

 A review of the policy of “locking the lines open” needs to be undertaken. There should be a greater emphasis placed on the ability of other emergency services, local support or neighbours to respond to emergencies.

 An alternative national response number should be investigated that would log lower priority calls, freeing up skilled staff and resources in 111 communications centre to focus solely on emergency response.

 There is a need to invest in rural telecommunications infrastructure, including land and cellular lines to ensure that rural families are not further disadvantaged through poor phone access in an emergency.

 Situations that could potentially cause (armed) confrontation need to be given a higher priority in Police response, resources, prevention and investigation.

 Emergency helicopters could be used more effectively in responding to priority incidents in isolated areas. They currently play a critical role in medical emergency response, particularly if local operators know local terrain.
Appendix 1

Do you have confidence in the 111 services ability to ensure emergency response is appropriate for rural areas?
Yes [ ]
No [ ]
In an emergency would 111 be your first port of call?
Yes [ ]
No [ ]
Do you believe that the three centralised communications centres effectively service rural areas?
Yes [ ]
No [ ]
Do you think that links/communication between communications centres and district police or volunteer community groups such as neighbourhood watch should be strengthened?
Yes [ ]
No [ ]
Have you used the 111 service in the last five years?
Yes [ ]
No [ ]
Which service?
Police [ ]
Fire [ ]
Ambulance [ ]

If so were you happy with the handling of the call?
Yes [ ]
No [ ]
And the subsequent response?
Yes [ ]
No [ ]
How long did it take the emergency service to respond?
Less than ½ hour [ ]
½ - 1 hour [ ]
Between 1 – 3 hours [ ]
Greater than 3 hours [ ]
Has there been any emergency situation where you chose to call other people (neighbours, emergency services direct) rather than calling 111?
Yes [ ]
No [ ]
Details

Please describe any good or bad experiences you have had with response from and handling of 111 Calls?

Do you have any other comments (bullet points fine) relating to police and emergency services?
(Consider any local initiatives that might be happening in your area that hasten response times and or build community relations with Police)


The following are a selection of anecdotes from farmers about their dealings with 111


"We had a large number (approx 40) of “Boy Racers” at our intersection – about 500 metres from our home. We called 111 repeatedly – no response team came. The woman at 111 suggested my husband go to corner and attain some number plates which against my advice he did and was “ruffed up” by the boys. I was disturbed that we were advised to put ourselves in a position of risk. We eventually rang the fire brigade who came within about 10 minutes. When complaining the next day to local police the comment was that there is no difference from my husband going to a scene of this nature than one of the local police who are on their own doing the same. We understand that they do not want to put their own persons in a position of risk but could not believe their attitude especially when the person who handled the 111 call had suggested that my husband to exactly that."

"Local stations too busy giving out speeding fines and unable to cope with local emergencies. Calls routed to Hastings because no one available in Waipukurau after 4.00pm in afternoon. Our daughter went missing from her Grandmothers house. 111 ended up in Auckland because of overload on Wellington line. Response was zero. 1 and a half hours later she was found, still had not seen a policeman, I then rang to cancel the call. Next day we had the Child welfare around to offer counselling and to check up on our ability to raise a child"

"Husband was being threatened at back door by masked men. Rang 111 but too many questions were asked while husband was being harassed outside. I was having to answer so many things wondering whether or not he was still going to be alive when I opened the door again, let alone what might happen to us next. Husband may have been brutally wounded if friend had not intervened. Police took a very long time to come to our aid. Men had gone by that time."

"We rang 111 because an old man and his two young grandchildren drifted out to sea after a mechanical failure. We had to spell where we lived several times they had no idea where we were situated. My husband wanted to hang up and ring the local sea rescue group was not allowed to. He was still on the phone after a surfer paddled out on his board and towed them in. They were within 200 metres of the shore when the rescue boat came into the bay and he was still on the phone, some 40 minutes later."

"We live on a corner of SH8 that seems to have runs of car accidents. I make very sure that when phoning 111 I tell the operator my rapid number, and then EMPHASISE they note it is LAWRENCE in OTAGO that is our nearest centre for emergency services. But recently the local fire brigade was directed to Mill Road in Lawrence instead of Mill Road in Queenstown, and have heard of several other incidents with similar mix-ups."

"There are times when local Constable is working out of district or on leave, and Police have to come from neighbouring areas – that takes time. And we haven’t got our Police 4WD any more, so that will make a difference in adverse weather conditions."

"Anytime I have ever had to call 111 the biggest problem we have encountered is trying to make sure that the operator understands the exact location of the problem. Our district has adopted rapid numbers for all rural area’s, but that doesn’t mean the response time is any quicker as the person handling the call usually has no idea of the local area/quickest routes etc."

"The person whom I spoke to could not locate the bridge (from where I thought the man was going to jump). Told me there was no such bridge in that area. I have lived here nearly 20 years."

"Four abusive & obnoxious pig hunters would not leave our property even after the valley residents had assembled at our property, we called police who arrived one and a half hours after the call and four and a half hours after the offenders were intercepted by ourselves and the neighbours. The policeman (one) tried to convince us to let them go through our place hunting."

"A suicide on the farm years ago, the 111 call went through to the Christchurch branch, they had no idea where Ashburton was (they thought it was near Darfield), so we rang Ashburton on the local number, they responded straight away."

"Working to stop goat shooters about a month ago. I called the local police station (Napier) who put me on to the Wellington dispatch. I had to explain every detail of where I lived and where the shooting was taking place. I gave up on them and hung up. I did this because the shooters were going to leave the farm. I had no cell phone coverage or back up from anyone let alone the Police. Wellington rang back and wanted more detail before I left the house but I left my wife to talk to them. At no time was car support or Police support offered. Our local Police officer was on a training day. So it was me alone to take a rifle off the offenders in an area with no back up. I went to the local Police station to hand the rifle in but had to take it home for the day as there was no one in attendance. The support from our local Police officer was top class after the event and he is to be commended but the 111 service is not acceptable. "

"I called 111 once to alert police that someone was on our property shining a torch around in the middle of the night. My husband was away overseas & I was home alone, in the middle of nowhere with two young children (which I told the operator). No one bothered to come & check it out or even phoned back later to see if everything was ok. As a matter of fact, I never heard from them again."

"We had a break in and the burglars where still on the section - we were told not to touch any thing because of finger prints and that the police would be there some time in the next 1 - 3 days. We had broken windows, doors etc where they had entered, the house had been turned up side down while we were milking and they had stolen our car keys and our road bike keys and made several attempts through out that night to take our car and bike and one of the phone operators in Auckland told us the police could be up to 3 days away"

"During the February flood I discovered two of the neighbours stranded in the middle of our (Mangawhero) river and called 111. The operator took the call very efficiently and passed it on to Wanganui Police who passed it on to the Army to organize a helicopter but nothing happened. After some time I rang my son in Palmerston North who checked with the Police who said the Helicopter was on its way. They were eventually rescued by Wanganui Aero Work as their brother had got them so he could look over the farm."

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