Understaffed emergency call centers put lives at risk: report

Emergency call center (Picture: Wikimedia Commons/Alfredo Molina)Emergency call center (Picture: Wikimedia Commons/Alfredo Molina)

The 112 call centers that handle emergency calls are seriously understaffed. They are also working with outdated, and sometimes failing, computers. Both these factors put people's lives at risk.

That is the conclusion of the Inspectorate for Security and Justice and the Agentschap Telecom, AD reports. The problem is largest with the police, with three quarters of the control room having too little manpower. With the fire department and ambulance service, about half of the control rooms are understaffed.

According to the report by these watchdogs, the understaffed call centers are an "immediate risk". It could lead to emergency services not being sent out quickly enough in the case of an emergency. Another problem that the watchdogs found is that information is not sufficiently shared.

At this stage the call centers are trying to deal with the staff shortage by asking dispatchers to put in extra hours and often scheduling young people to work at night. The Inspectorate warns that this unhealthy situation can lead to more absenteeism, which is already one of the causes of the staff shortage. Another reason for the shortage is that a number of the employees have left due to the uncertainty about the reorganization of the control rooms, which is being transformed into a national unit.

The Inspectorate is also concerned about the call centers' computer systems. The IT in half of the control rooms is outdated or failing. They also do not have a backup for malfunctions.