UK first for two north east fire and rescue services

The UK's first joint fire and rescue service control mobilising system has gone live in the north east.

Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service and Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service began work 18 months ago on a new, more efficient and more resilient fire and rescue service mobilising system. The supplier of the new system is telent Technology Services Ltd.

Mobilising systems are used by Control Room Operators to take and process 999 fire calls and to communicate with and despatch fire appliances to incidents.

The £3.6m system was funded following a successful joint bid to the Government to replace their mobilising systems which were both due for replacement. Northumberland and Tyne and Wear each received £1.8M.

By working together each fire and rescue service is able to take the other's calls and mobilise each other’s appliances using the new system, increasing resilience and removing the need for secondary control rooms in each fire and rescue service.

To increase resilience further they are also looking at working with another remote fire and rescue service in the UK so that on a rare occasion when both Control Rooms may be unable to take emergency calls due to a large number of simultaneous incidents, the other Fire and Rescue Service could take the over flow calls.

The new system utilises the very latest voice and data communications technology in call handling and in the despatching of appliances. It includes connection to Airwave, which is a radio/data network system used by all emergency services to communicate with each other.

An Automatic Vehicle Location System (AVLS) will allow mobilisation of the nearest available suitable fire appliance ensuring the quickest response to any incident. In addition each appliance is fitted with the latest satellite navigation technology via a dedicated unit which automatically routes the appliance to the incident address.

All frontline appliances are also fitted with mobile data terminals that allow instant access to the latest chemical data and hazard information, including all available risk information for each premises; thereby enhancing firefighter safety and allowing Incident Commanders to make risk critical incident decisions based on the most accurate and up-to-date information available.

Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service's Control Room has been relocated from Morpeth to its Headquarters at West Hartford whilst Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue's Control Room has been relocated from West Denton Community Fire Station to its Headquarters at Barmston in Washington.

After thorough testing the new mobilising system went live in both Fire and Rescue Services on Monday 25 November.

Chief Fire Officer Tom Capeling, Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service said: "The new system is a significant asset and will enhance the work of our excellent Control Room staff and frontline firefighters. We are delighted to be working with telent who are using the very latest technology. By working with our colleagues in Northumberland, the mobilising system will increase our resilience, enabling us to keep our communities safe."

Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service is part of Northumberland County Council, and Chief Fire Officer Alex Bennett pointed out the benefits not only for the fire services but for other aspects of council service and for the county as a whole.

He said: "This new integrated mobilising system is welcome news for both Northumberland and Tyne and Wear. It is important that we use new technology to build on the emergency services that we provide to ensure that we continue to operate safely and efficiently. We look forward to continuing our partnership with Tyne and Wear and telent to ensure that control room officers and firefighters roles are enhanced by the implementation of this new system, as well as being able to support other council services across Northumberland when dealing with emergency situations.”

Chris Metcalfe, Managing Director for telent’s Technology Solutions business said: "I am delighted that Northumberland and Tyne and Wear have recognised telent’s expertise in the integration and support of mission critical Command and Control systems. telent are proud to have implemented this key project, and we are looking forward to continuing to help both Northumberland and Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Services to achieve their goals through the deployment of new technology and services."

The funding was made available following the cancellation of the FireControl project by the current Government. Collaborative bids were encouraged from across the UK to increase the resilience of Fire and Rescue Services. A total of £81M was available across England for fire and rescue services.

Both Fire and Rescue Service's previous mobilising systems have been in place for 15 years and are due to be replaced in 2014.

With annual revenues of over £300 million, telent has decades of experience in supplying a broad range of network and communications services. Today, the privately-held company employs approximately 1,500 people and has an engineering field force that covers the entire UK. Customers include: BT, Virgin Media, Sky, Arqiva, Vodafone, Merseyside Fire & Rescue, the Metropolitan Police, Transport for London, Network Rail, Train Operators, and London Ambulance Service.