By Chelsea Carter with Josh Cytrynbaum, Director, Distress Services, Crisis Response & Operations
While the world seemed to have stopped in response to COVID-19, nothing stopped in the Crisis Centre call-room and online chat services. Crisis line operations remained the same – the Centre did what it does best: respond to crisis.
Calls increased, but so did response rates. Underneath the cool surface, however, things were changing at a rapid-fire pace as the Centre, who until just a year ago had been using copper wire phones, was quickly adopting new remote call taking technologies.
Due to physical distancing measures the Crisis Centre’s call room, run primarily by volunteer call-takers, saw the number of call stations decreased from ten to a maximum of five. Additionally, training and overflow volunteers and staff that usually crowded the adjacent staff room were limited to two-people. Though the number of physical call-takers had decreased, the number of calls increased.
In response, the Crisis Centre team’s ability to answer chats went remote by implementing technology to support staff to work from home. We also increased call-taking capability by hiring on a small team of paid crisis responders from our volunteer pool to do the majority of shifts during the first part of the pandemic.
These efforts increased the Crisis Centre’s response rate and call taking capacity.