BMC augments 1916 helpline capacity

Short-staffed: Only 14 of the 48 staffers at BMC’s disaster managment control room are available for work.

Short-staffed: Only 14 of the 48 staffers at BMC’s disaster managment control room are available for work.   | Photo Credit: Deepak Salvi

Civic body doubles number of lines from 30 to 60, aims to hire more employees

After receiving complaints of people unable to get through to its emergency helpline 1916, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has doubled the number of lines from 30 to 60.

The disaster management control room at the BMC headquarters, which operates the helpline, is having a tough time manning around 4,000 calls a day as 34 of its 48 staffers are either in quarantine or have tested positive for COVID-19. The control room is tasked with allocating COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 hospital beds, ambulances and hearse vans.

Around 15 staffers are required per shift, but just 14 employees are available in total. Each employee is now handling over 500 calls a day, forcing most of them to have meals at their desk. The BMC has asked staffers who complete their quarantine period to resume work.

The civic body is trying to hire more contractual staff. Several contractual employees had quit days after positive cases emerged from the control room. It also expects the control room’s call burden to reduce with all wards starting their own helplines and appointing staff to attend calls.

“We have now doubled our phone lines and are making arrangements for increasing staff. We will streamline the helpline within a week,” said Chief Officer Mahesh Narvekar, who was due to retire on April 30, but is working on extension in view of COVID-19 and the imminent monsoon.

During Cyclone Nisarga, a snag in the MTNL connection had prevented the control room staff from answering calls made to the helpline. A BMC officer said, “Some public representatives called and abused us when we weren’t able to help them. This affects the team’s morale. All staffers are risking their lives and coming to work. They are trying their best.”

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Printable version | Jul 7, 2020 8:09:42 PM |

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