Work of a duty officer at the Situation Centre
The Situation Centre of the Länsi-Uusimaa Rescue Department is open every day of the year, around the clock. The Situation Centre’s duty officers answer some 25,000 calls and 30,000 emails each year, alongside other activities.
In addition to customer service, the Situation Centre maintains an overview of the security situation and supports rescue operations, emergency medical services, accident prevention and the activities of the municipalities in the region.
The work of Situation Centre duty officers is an integral part of the Rescue Department’s services. Even though the work is not visible to the public, the duty officer is often the first point of contact for residents and partners. You could say that the Situation Centre is the nerve centre of the Rescue Department.
Duty officers work 12-hour shifts. The day shift is from 9:00 to 21:00 and the night shift is from 21:00 to 9:00. There are always two duty officers working per shift.
The work involves a lot of learning, as new systems are introduced every year. Employees receive training related to the systems at the workplace. Sometimes, duty officers participate in training events organised by the Emergency Services Academy.
Jessica has been working as a duty officer since 2003, and Tom started in 2013. They are part of a team of ten duty officers at the Rescue Department’s central fire station.
This is how they describe their work.
What skills and characteristics should a duty officer have?
Jessica: “You must be able to make decisions independently but also work together with your partner and other collaborators. The situations that come up may be surprising, which requires creative problem-solving skills. You must also be able to handle stress, as the work can at times be emotionally draining. Good IT skills are useful, and you have to be willing to learn new things. Customer service situations can be challenging and require a solution-oriented approach. It helps if you stay calm; things will get done even if you do not rush them.”
Tom: “The ability to get along with people and listen are essential in the work of a duty officer. There are no ready answers to all situations, so you have to be prepared to look for solutions. We use dozens of systems, and knowing how to use them and keeping your skills up-to-date is very important. We always work in pairs, so good cooperation skills are useful. You can also benefit from your partner’s skills and competence and find solutions together, helping each other.”
What is the best part of your work?
Jessica: “Great colleagues. The work is rewarding because you can help others. It is always nice to receive positive feedback. Shift work suits me. When you work in shifts, you get longer periods of time off, which I like.”
Tom: “The work is interesting; there’s always something new going on. I appreciate our nice work community. We have a really good crew. We encourage each other to learn new things.”
Tasks of the Situation Centre:
- Monitors the security situation in the region 24/7
- Manages the Rescue Department’s email and switchboard
- Records voice traffic in the public safety network Virve, if necessary
- Monitors and supports message traffic in the region and transmits fault reports
- Acts as part of the Rescue Department’s command centre
- Provides support services to the field and for the staff
- Ensures that rescue units are alerted and, if necessary, alerts them and sends the necessary messages to the staff and stakeholders (e.g. contract fire brigades and municipal executive groups)
- Monitors and tests the functioning of public warning sirens
- Sends bulletins
- Day-to-day communications
- Maintains data in systems and databases
- Maintains site card data concerning properties
- Transmits information to the Emergency Response Centre
- Access control
- Prepares reports
- Manages the internal communications system
- Customer service