Centre beyond the call of duty

IPSWICH City Council's new customer call centre fielded more than 32,000 calls during the momentous January flood.

The number of calls was 121% above a normal month and the greatest number recorded to date, Community Engagement Committee chairwoman Councillor Heather Morrow said.

The $1 million facility opened in the former Commonwealth Bank building in the Ipswich Mall late last year.

“On Wednesday January 12 the flood waters peaked in the city and residents were calling the Customer Call Centre to get help with a variety of issues such as where the nearest evacuation centre was located or how to get help with food and clothing,” Cr Morrow said.

“To accommodate the emergency response, in the first week we extended the call centre from its usual 12-hours-a-day, five-days-a-week service, to being a 24-hour, seven-days-a-week operational facility.

“By the second week, the operating hours were scaled back to 16-hour days, seven days a week, until after Australia Day, when the hours remained the same but were only available five days.

“More than 40 staff worked extra shifts during the January disaster, and all of them went above and beyond their normal call of duty.

"As you can imagine, a lot of the calls were stressful for them as they had to deal with residents who were extremely anxious, stressed and panicking.

“They answered 32,012 calls in January, which is 45% higher than what we took for the same month last year and is the highest volume of calls we've ever received in a single month.”

The call centre also took 6000 calls for Townsville City Council after its call centre was shut down when Cyclone Yasi hit.

Cr Morrow said the disaster was a successful test of the new facility and its technology, including using the back-up call recording system.

“Everything worked well under the strain of the disaster and I am very proud of the call centre staff who persevered through such difficult times,” she said.

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