We are in good hands!
The British Consul in Tenerife recently organised a very useful trip for some of English language journalists to the 112 Emergency Call Centre in Santa Cruz, and I have to say a more useful few hours I have rarely spent.
Yes, we all do know that there have been occasions when the police may not have responded well to an emergency call, or an ambulance took too long to arrive on the scene, but having met the people who take your calls and dispatch and dispense aid and advice, I really believe we are in safe hands. And for every bad news story there are so many good news stories and lives saved that are never heard about.
The centre is run with a rare combination of top level efficiency and immense humanity. When a call come, and they deal with thousands and very few pranks, it goes first to a dedicated team of men and women who will take the basic information – who you are, where you are, and why you are calling….as they are talking to you they are already filing the details into a central computer and performing a type of ‘triage’ assessing the urgency and to whom they may need to pass the call.
And what’s more, there is always someone on call who speaks English, French, Italian and German as well, or course, as Spanish. Calls can be made from any phone (land line, call box, mobiles without credit) and the calls are free.
The operator’s call filing means your details are now in a central computer system and the nature of the call (fire, accident, medical emergency, etc) is queued in the system and displayed on a series of large screens around central control. There is an overall supervisor who is keeping an eye on the details at all times. Given the automatic protocols in place, if your call is a medical emergency the operator has probably already dispatched an ambulance and passed you directly to the medical team, or a fire brigade or rescue boat, depending on the emergency.
There is always a doctor on hand to talk to you, advise you and take you through any medical procedures. During the visit we heard of a life-saving call whereby the onsite doctor, over the phone, talked a father through reviving a young baby who had stopped breathing. Managing to calm down a hysterical parent and coach them into saving the life of their infant is no mean feat, and in this case the child was breathing by the time the ambulance had arrived.
The centre’s supervisor is also taking split-second decisions that could prove lifesaving. For instance he or she will decide very quickly whether they need to call out the ambulance, fire brigade or helicopter. This will be based on the nature and location of the emergency as well as other salient factors (cost is not considered a salient factor!). All in all the centre works at maximum speed to ensure that the right help is dispatched to the correct location in as short at time as possible. All the information and subsequent activity is logged as well. The centre also has extra personnel on call in the case of extra demand on the system, and with two offices running, one in each Canarian province, and the possibility of call transfer, the queuing system means few calls are left waiting for too long,
One of the reasons we were invited to the centre, apart from showing us the centre at work, was to impress upon both residents and visitors the importance of remembering the number 112 – and to use it and not 999 in the case of a genuine emergency. Furthermore, 112 is a European number and the European Union is obliging all members states to move towards using this number nationally too so that in the case of an emergency, no matter what EU country you are in, you won’t have to look for a strange number in a panic. In fact over 9,000 foreigners used the number requesting assistance last year, and according to the centre’s statistics since the introduction of a multi-lingual service they have seen an increase by 27% of international calls.
When not to call 112
To ensure the system operates at maximum efficiency it is also important to know when not to call 112. For instance, they are not a weather alert service, and they do not, ever, make decisions about school closures. What the controllers do during a state of emergency is coordinate the relevant information and pass that onto the authorities who do make those kind of decisions (schools, road closures, etc).
According to our helpful guide in the 112 Canarian centre, one of the many good reasons the number was chosen is that children of five and over can count to 10 so 112 is a number that can be memorised by them in the case of a home emergency where they might need to make the call. It’s no harm to help your child learn the number when they reach the right age – after all, it could be them saving your life one day!
(Thanks to the team from the British Consul for organising the visit and the very helpful staff at the 112 centre for taking time out to show us around.)
Given the fact that there is a weather alert announced for tomorrow here in the Canary Islands, it’s worth taking a quick look at what the different colour alerts mean.
These codes have been designed by the MeteoAlarm network of European national forecasters (http://www.meteoalarm.eu) with the intention of having a pan-European warning system and today most European countries, including Spain, the UK and Ireland, are members of the network and use these codes.
Here is a summary of the important alert colour coding.
The weather is potentially dangerous. The weather phenomena that have been forecast are not unusual but require your attention if you intend to practise activities exposed to meteorological risks. Keep informed about weather conditions and don’t take avoidable risks.
Wind: mean speeds 50-65km/h.
Rain: 30mm-50mm in 24 hrs.
The weather is dangerous and unusual meteorological phenomena have been forecast. Damage and causalities are likely to occur. Be very vigilant and keep yourself updated regarding weather conditions. Be aware of the risks that might be unavoidable. Follow any advice given by the authorities.
Wind: mean speeds 65-80km/h.
Rain: 50mm-70mm in 24 hrs.
The weather is very dangerous. Exceptionally intense meteorological conditions have been forecast. Major damage and accidents are likely, in many cases with threat to life and limb over a wide area. Keep frequently informed about changing weather conditions and risks. Follow orders and any advice given by authorities under all circumstances and be prepared for extraordinary measures.
Wind: mean speeds in excess of 80km/h.
Gusts: in excess of 130km/h.
Rain: 70mm or greater in 24 hrs.
The mayor of Adeje praised the excellent operation of the emergency and security unit
Adeje’s mayor José Miguel Rodríguez Fraga has announced a number of short, medium and long term measures to address certain deficiencies in the water drainage system in the borough.
Adeje’s mayor, José Miguel Rodríguez Fraga, following a meeting with the group this morning, has praised the good work carried out by the CECOPAL, the borough’s emergency operations centre. The mayor, along with technical and security personnel, inspected first hand the zones that have been most affected by the storms to make a on-site evaluation. At the same time, given the improving situation and the reduction in the alert status, the mayor de-activated the group, leaving a security team in place as well as those involved in the clean up and evaluation work.
The mayor congratulated the emergency and security teams for the work undertaken during the critical hours of the crisis, “I must praise the efforts , which often went beyond what is normally asked, of all those groups who were involved in responding to the incidents arising during the crisis. Local Police, Civil Protections, Fire Fighters, town businesses, personnel from the works and services area, as well as those in the communications division, whose work is also important in keeping the population informed and at ease, with the correct official information”, he said. Rodríguez Fraga had particular words of praise for the Adeje Local Police who today celebrate the feast day of their Patron, the Virgen de Guadalupe, and who had to cancel their ceremonies due to the alert.
Regarding the incidents that arose as a result of the storms, the mayor said, “Adeje didin’t suffer great damage and no human injuries, which is the most important, and that is, in no small way, as a result of the investment made in the drainage infrastructure which we carried out in recent years.” Adeje has see this work completed in Las Torres and Los Olivos as well as in the Barranco del Agua and the Barranco del Inglés, among other zones.
The damage that was caused by the rain in the past few days will be resolved as soon as possible, with “immediate measures taken to repair and improve the situation, but in the medium to long term we will study what work needs to be done to make our drainage system more effective when there are heavy rains. ” Adeje council is already planning the installation of a system of channels in 2014 by the Barranco del Lomo which is precisely the origin of the accumulation of water, mud and stones that affected the Avda. Madroñal in Miraverde.
The mayor said that during today over 200 people continue to work removing stones and mud from the streets. As well, the town’s cleaning company, Ascan Torrabonaf, is also allocating teams to work alongside with water to help clean the streets which have been most affected by mud. Incidents such as water supply problems in Fañabé and Tijoco Bajo, because of burst pipes, have been fixed by the water company Entemanser.
The damage to some of the borough’s beaches has seen a considerable loss of sand in some of them, and the accumulation of branches, stones and other material washed down by the water. At the moment the relevant companies have begun work to clean up the beaches, but this will take a few days.
The council has announced that extra-curricular activities are suspended this afternoon (Thursday) but will resume as normal tomorrow, Friday, in the School of Dance and Music, the People’s University, sporting centres, the municipal creche, and the special needs centre.
The local government have also decided to continue with the Christmas programme tomorrow, with the Christmas market in the Plaza César Manrique, the inauguration of the Nativity Scene in Los Olivos, etc. There will also be a boxing match in Las Torres tomorrow at 8.30pm. However the planned event by the residents association of La Caleta tomorrow for the collection of toys and non-perishible food items has been suspended and will take place on Thursday December 19th.
The report early this afternoon from the Adeje CECOPAL, the centre for municipal emergency co-ordination, is that there have been no major incidents to report in the borough during the morning.
The most affected zone would appear to be Costa Adeje which was the part of the borough where rain accumulated most and the drainage systems were overloaded due to the intensity of the rainfall. The beaches of Fañabé, Torviscas La Enramada and Ajabo (Callao Salvaje) were badly affected and the rain has washed away large amounts of sand.
According to the Adeje CECOPAL report there were cascades of water in various zones particularly Torviscas Alto and Roque del Conde, with the accumulation of stones and mud which is now being cleared by council services.
In the main streets of the borough, the council had to briefly close the Avda. de los Pueblos, Avda. Bruselas and Avda del Mirador del Duque to allow clearance operations and water flow. As well the Fañabe and Torviscas bridges were closed for a number of hours, but all roads are now open to traffic.
Emergency services in operation, such as the Policía Local, Protección Civil, volunteer Fire service and councillors from the Adeje governing party continue to be on call throughout the emergency and on hand to deal with any incident that may arise, and will remain so for the rest of the afternoon and evening. The advice to citizens continues to be to remain at home, and, if you need to go anywhere by car, drive with extreme caution.
Tomorrow, Thursday, the council’s administrative services will resume. A decision regarding municipal activities (the school of music, sports, the open university, etc) will be taken later today, depending on weather predictions.
The council would also like to remind people that it is the regional government who will decide whether schools will reopen tomorrow.
The mayor of Adeje, José Miguel Rodríguez Fraga, following a meeting this morning with local security services, has activated the local municipal emergency protocol (CECOPAL) ahead of the predicted weather alert.
He also announced the suspension of all municipal activities, and school classes, for tomorrow. Furthermore, official council buildings will close – this includes the CDTCA, the borough’s creche, senior citizen and disability centres, cultural centres, etc and the council’s administrative offices too. Local police and civil protection will be on full alert during this time.
The mayor advised residents of Adeje to remain calm and and said “we have activated the CECOPAL protocol to ensure we can respond in the best and fastest possible way to the situation and coordinate with the security and emergency services. People should remain calm and avoid going out where possible and take all available precautions.
The Adeje department of tourism has also been in touch with all of the hotels in Adeje to keep them informed regarding the weather situation and the preventative measures they should take, such as the cancellation of excursions and outdoor activities. They have also recommended that tourists be advised to remain in their hotels during the emergency period.
The headquarters of CECOPAL is in the Las Torres Security Centre and can be contacted by calling 922 71 65 08. Members of the public can also call 112 for any matter of concern,
The general recommendations issued by the regional government in the case of high winds and heavy rains are to keep doors and windows closed to shut out currents. Remove objects from terraces and balconies, avoid trips/camping, don’t use elevators and avoid any road trips if possible.
Some Apps are more uselful than others, and this one could save your life!
Ministry of Economy, Finance and Security, and FRESS Foundation, have signed a collaboration agreement by which, the Canary Government improves the access to the European emergency number 1-1-2 by implementing FRESS.
FRESS is the Social Network for Emergency Response designed exclusively by the Foundation FRESS (Free Emergency Services) for emergency management.
FRESS provides a software application that creates a communications platform allowing individuals to seek emergency assistance through an easy to use smart phone app. through voice, real-time texting, sharing photos and data. and optimizing the location of the caller.
The system also translates text messages into Spanish automatically, which is an advantage for the millions of tourists who visit the Canary Islands.
With this initiative 1-1-2 CANARIAS wants to move forward and join the project of Next Generation Emergency Services, providing attention to all the individuals in our community, connecting users with different abilities, languages and nationalities with the European emergency number 1-1-2.
Advantages of FRESS 1-1-2
Using FRESS112 for the location and positioning by the terminal location via GPS is more accurate than the one submitted by phone antennas
The application works with 3G network FRESS, ie you must have enabled data line in the terminal for the use of advanced options such as sending pictures. Your download is free and the user of this service must have installed on their mobile device this app with all desired personal and health information in order to improve response times by emergency services
FRESS112 has been developed by the International Foundation FRESS and has already been tested in the emergency services in Virginia, USA (911), Mexico (Control Center), currently in operation, and Krakow in Poland, and has now been integrated in the Canary 1-1-2 technological system
The purpose of the Foundation is to connect FRESS users to the nearest emergency center via voice, text, images or video communication, from anywhere in the world they are.
FRESS Foundation is dedicated to develop technology and activities of general interest, specifically intended to encourage, assist, promote, encourage, and disseminate information and technological tools to improve the safety and emergency conditions of people at risk of exclusion for physical reasons. It also tries to promote and disseminate the development of information, scientific research and technological development in our society.