It feels a bit weird driving up to a Fire Station to make a phone call to the police!
But that is what the new 'Police Listening Posts' are designed to do - make the Police more contactable!
So, I gave it a go - and this is what I found...
Firstly, the unit was hard to identify on the wall of the Fire Station - it sat next to a large yellow container which looked like Fire Station device?
Secondly, when I lifted the phone receiver, nothing happening. Instead, I had to look for and then carefully read the instructions - because the device is an integrated phone and web portal to police information (or an intranet I guess we'd call it) it has numerous jobs to do and making the phone work wasn't obvious.
Once I worked out how to make a phone call - receiver in hand - I found it was answered almost instantly. My call from Tarporley Fire Station was answered by a very friendly police officer in a matter of seconds in Blacon / Chester.
'What would happen in an emergency' I asked? "Well, we would prioritise your call and make sure we got an immediate response".
That felt re-assuring.
So, why have these points of contact?
Well, the obvious reason is that they provide a connection for people who don't have access to a mobile phone, landline or other means of contacting the police.
It also places the police in a community where normally it wouldn't have any fixed presence. So, Tarporley has a Fire Station but no Police Station - but at least it has a Police Listening Post.
Would I use the device? Probably not, it took me a few minutes to work out how to use it - and I can call 101 from my phone without having to drive to the Fire Station.
Would other people use the device? I'm told that people do use it - perhaps they feel they can report things anonymously?
However, would someone who wasn't familiar with touch screen technologies be able to use the device? I pretty much doubt that they would!
So, based on my drive-by-test - how would I rate this service?
8/10 for innovation and the courage to try something new
7/10 for community reach and leveraging collaboration with the Fire Station to bring the emergency services together
2/ 10 for usability - not that it was hard to use when I knew how - but the branding around the device was weak, so it was unclear what it was. The written instructions were on a touch screen separated from the device - so, I wasn't sure whether they were connected or any of the Fire Service notices were more relevant
1/ 10 for use in an emergency - if you are familiar with the navigation, then it would work well - but if you didn't know how to use it, then it would take too long.
All in all - a good stab at innovation and collaboration - but the branding, communications and usability were all too weak to make it an effective tool.
Can we tackle the branding / communications/ usability? Yes, and we should - now the investment has been made, we need to see that these things get the maximum use possible by all members of the community.