WRI Operations Centre System
The Wildlife Rescue Inc (WRI) Operations Centre system is currently composed of two separate but complimentary entities – the Operations Centre itself and the WRI Search Engine (termed Map Maker). Each entity utilises specialist computer software (unique to Wildlife Rescue) installed on separate servers in Sydney. Access to the software on either server is by authorised personnel only.
The WRI Operations Centre currently has the capacity to handle over one million incoming calls per year (at 15 minutes per call), of which up to 100 may be concurrent. In practice, the capacity of the Call Centre is limited only by the number of phone coordinators and the time they are available for phone duty.
The Centre was developed by a Sydney-based IT firm to WRI’s specifications. It is owned and operated by Wildlife Rescue Inc; its establishment costs have been fully paid. Because WRI is a registered charity, the operating costs of the Centre have been waived.
The WRI Operations Centre
Calls to the Centre can be made either:
a) directly (by a member of the public etc.) using a standard telephone, smartphone, tablet or softphone on a desktop or laptop computer; or
b) indirectly, for example by an organisation diverting its incoming calls to the Centre.
Phone coordinators operate from home, using their own phone and computer equipment, with all specialist computer software supplied (at no cost) by Wildlife Rescue. A coordinator may retain an existing phone number, if desired, but is required to use VoIP for incoming calls whilst on phone duty. This can be provided by Wildlife Rescue at no cost.
Coordinators are required to be members of Wildlife Rescue Inc and are trained to handle calls concerning injured, sick and orphaned wildlife.
How the Call Centre Operates
Each incoming caller is presented with the recorded message “You have reached the NSW Wildlife Rescue Call Centre- a coordinator will be with you within 2 minutes. Your call may be recorded for verification and security purposes“.
The call is then routed to one of the coordinators rostered on duty at the time, chosen on a round robin basis (i.e. starting with the coordinator after the one who took the previous call).
Upon answering, the coordinator receives a recorded message “This is a Wildlife Rescue call”, thus allowing the coordinator to recognise rescue from personal calls. The coordinator is then immediately connected to the caller.
If a coordinator is engaged or does not answer within 12-15 seconds, the call is routed to the next coordinator on the roster, and so on.
If a coordinator is not found within a time limit (currently set at 90 seconds), the call is routed to a primary backup emergency number (a Wildlife Rescue member) so that:
a) the call may be processed; and
b) corrective action may be taken to avoid this situation in the future.
If necessary, a secondary backup service can be provided such that any unanswered call (even by the primary backup) is automatically diverted to an emergency answering service owned and operated in Australia and which is staffed 24 hours per day. The caller will be asked to provide a name and phone number (if not already available); these details are then sent as a text message to up to 5 members of Wildlife Rescue for immediate action.
To date, this secondary backup has not been required.
All incoming calls are recorded, with each recording readily accessible for replay (if necessary) by phone coordinators. Upon accepting an incoming call, a coordinator employs the WRI Search Engine to process the call.
The WRI Search Engine
Map Maker employs professionally-written, copyrighted software to minimise the time, effort and cost required to process calls. It is graphic-based, using a variation of Google Maps to present to a coordinator the location of any animal in need, together with a wide range of support options to assist in a rescue (incl. rescuers, carers, vets, Council rangers, tree climbers etc).
How the Search Engine Works
1. Upon creating a new record (by clicking the “New Record” button or its keyboard equivalent), the date and time are automatically entered. Both of these can be adjusted (if necessary) by the coordinator who created the record or by an administrator.
2. Normally, details of the animal involved and the caller would then be entered, but it is only necessary to specify the location before a map can be drawn. This may be desired if (for example) the location of Baan Baa, NSW is required.
3. In a new call record, rescuers are selected by default, but other options (not shown above) can also be selected – carers (i.e. members of a licenced group), vet clinics, registered shooters, Police etc – simply by clicking the appropriate button(s). Each of these is represented by a differently-coloured marker on a Rescue Map (see Fig. 3).
4. The red marker on a Rescue Map indicates the location of the animal to be rescued. Clicking on this marker opens a balloon (in typical Google map fashion), which contains the data already entered in the Call Record.
5. Clicking on a marker of another colour opens a balloon whose content depends on the marker’s colour. Balloons for blue markers, for example (representing potential rescuers), contain:
a) the rescuer’s name and home address;
b) distance from the animal;
c) phone number(s);
e) other notes of interest (e.g. specialises in pelican rescues).
6. Certain features in a balloon are underlined, indicating that if clicked – something happens. One feature common to ALL balloons is one (or more) phone numbers. A single click on one of these phone numbers automatically rings the number concerned and allows a coordinator to conduct a conversation handsfree whilst using the Search Engine.
7. A balloon for a vet clinic (shown by a yellow marker) contains a link to the clinic’s website, if available. Thus, a coordinator taking a call for an animal that possibly needs veterinary treatment can check the opening hours of the clinic on its website whilst the caller is still on the line.
8. Should a call involve a snake or goanna, the coordinator can select “Snake, goanna” from the Type pane in Fig. 2. In this case, only markers for snake/goanna rescuers and carers are drawn on the Rescue Map. Similarly in the case of bats and flying foxes.
9. Map Maker contains a variety of other options, such as the ability to send call records as text messages or emails to nominated addresses.
Because Map Maker has been designed and largely written “in-house”, specifically to facilitate the rescue of animals (i.e. it has not been adapted from existing software designed for a different purpose), it can easily be modified, for example to provide periodic summary reports for a third party at the click of a button.
The real benefit of the WRI system, however, is its personalised, 24-hour service, designed specifically to help animals in need.