The calm call handler who helped a schoolboy save his mum’s life


Ten-year-old Louie Dean was hailed as a hero after his diabetic mother passed out and crashed her car.

But control room operator Dave Smith also played a crucial role in ensuring a perilous situation had a happy outcome.

Louie was being driven home by his mum, Kate, when she blacked out at the wheel. With his mum too incoherent to speak to the emergency services, the youngster took over the 999 call to the control room at Wiltshire Police headquarters, while also trying to flag down passing drivers.

That’s when Dave Smith’s calm professionalism proved vital.

Louie Dean.JPG

Dave, a 999 Call Handler and Despatcher for the Wiltshire force for nine years, employed all his experience during a 20-minute call, calming the schoolboy down, reassuring him that help would soon be on its way and extracting vital information to establish where the crash had happened.

Dave said: “The boy was initially quite distressed, but he calmed down when he realised we were there to help him. I kept reassuring him that I wouldn’t leave him until we got somebody to the scene to give him and his mum the help they needed.

“I also gave Louie advice to keep him safe, while trying to prize information out of him that would pinpoint his location – what he could see, were there road signs or landmarks that could help us to find him? I then fed all that information into the log to inform the despatchers who relayed it to the police and ambulance teams.”

Dave’s handling of the call and identification of the location of the crash ensured police and ambulance crews were able to reach the pair as rapidly as possible, ensuring Louie’s mum received medical care and the risk of a further accident was avoided.

Louie, from Swindon, who was nine at the time, later received a certificate of recognition from Wiltshire Chief Constable Mike Veale, while his mum, who made a full recovery, hailed her son for saving her life.

Dave said: “I’m pleased the situation had a positive outcome – that’s what we all work for – and that the young lad has been recognised for what he did for his mum.

“I’m happy I was able to give them the help they needed and that it all turned out well. It’s what we’re trained to do.”

Dave’s boss, John Flynn, Head of Contact Management for Wiltshire Police, said: “It was a pretty tough set of circumstances for anybody to deal with. The boy was frightened, distressed and didn’t know what was happening to his mum or where he was.

“Dave couldn’t put his arm around the boy, give him a hug and tell him it was going to be OK. He had to use his communications skills to reassure the lad while, at the same time, getting information out of him in a structured format to ensure he could keep him and his mum safe.

“He did that expertly and with great skill. This incident is just one example of the brilliance that happens within control rooms up and down the country to keep people safe.”

Dave’s calm, efficient and caring handling of a critical situation illustrates why control room staff are so deserving of the recognition they will receive in the first Control Room Awards, launched by mission critical solutions specialist APD Communications.

And Dave said the awards would give welcome national profile to the vital work of staff in control rooms across the country.

He added: “We get recognised within the Wiltshire force for the work we do, but it’s good that these awards are on a national level.

“I don’t think many members of the public realise what we do on a daily basis. I’m sure they would be surprised by the situations we have to deal with and the skills we have to use.”

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Jane Cross