In May 2014 leading technology solutions and services provider, telent, successfully implemented and integrated the command and control systems of four of the UK’s regional fire authorities into one central command and control system at North West Fire Control Centre (NWFC).
NWFC, which has handled in excess of 258,000 emergency calls since going live in May 2014, is a public sector company set up exclusively by the Fire Services in the North West. As well as handling all 999 emergency calls to the North West Fire Services it also has the responsibility of mobilising fire fighters and fire engines to incidents in Cumbria, Lancashire, Greater Manchester and Cheshire. Covering a diverse area of over 5000 square miles, with a population of over 5.5 million people, the telent solution is set to help the Fire Services save in the region of £15 million over the next 12 years.
The system integrates the latest technology from Hexagon and Frequentis, and allows the four Fire Services to share the infrastructure required to route 999 calls, mobilise resources and maintain radio contact with crews. This shared infrastructure, regional model, was the first of its kind to be used in the Blue Light sector, and has led to improved responsiveness and greater efficiency allowing the Fire Service’s to achieve government prescribed savings whilst protecting front line services; keeping stations open and pumps on the run that might otherwise have been withdrawn.
The system integrates with each Fire Service’s resource availability systems ensuring that the nearest available skilled resources are mobilised to incidents regardless of service boundaries. A key benefit of the mobilising solution is its multi-agency configurability, allowing staff to follow a single unified workflow in the control room, regardless of the call’s location, confident in the knowledge that the system will propose the response and advice required for each incident type based on the demographics and risk profiles in their local community areas.
telent was awarded the four year contract, following a rigorous tender process as it demonstrated the most comprehensive solution, optimal service level agreements and value for money. telent was also appointed to lead the implementation of the project and provide on-going support services.
Sarah Wilson, Head of North West Fire Control, said: “Using the latest technology we now have greater collaboration across borders which enables a much faster response particularly to life critical incidents. The telent solution has enabled us to respond more efficiently whether that’s within a metropolitan area or more rural parts of our region.”
Sarah continues, “Previously to mobilise across Fire and Rescue Service borders would have meant a phone call to the Control Room from which the resources were required. The Control would then have to re-enter the incident details in their own system and mobilise their own resources. Now, NWFC has visibility of all Fire and Rescue resources across the four FRSs and can mobilise them immediately as part of the initial response regardless of whether the incident is in that resource’s Fire and Rescue area or not.
In addition to this the resources attending also have visibility via their on board Mobile Data Terminals (MDTs) of all resources attending the incident whether they are from the same Fire and Rescue Service or not and can communicate with each other while on route to the incident. This means the public receives a much quicker and co-ordinated response to critical and life risk incidents.”
Paul Hancock, Chief Fire Officer of Cheshire and Cumbria Fire and Rescue Services and former President of the Chief Fire Officers Association, stated: “North West Fire Control is a single Fire Control Centre where four Fire and Rescue Services’ assets are mobilised from a single mobilising system. Enhanced caller location information and an extensive premises based gazetteer enables the Control Room Operator to quickly and accurately pinpoint not only the location of an incident but also the location of the caller. Assisted by Automatic Vehicle Locating Systems and road routing software within the mobilising system, the Operator can then identify and alert the quickest response to the incident.”
Barry Zielinski, General Manager for Public Safety and Defence at telent, commented: “NWFC required a resilient command and control solution which would enable the efficient despatch of fire crews across the North West. The new system also had to be capable of processing much larger quantities of data than the previous separate and unconnected systems. Following implementation, the success of the solution was highlighted during the devastating storms and flooding in late 2015 when the regional and multi-agency nature of the system helped the individual Fire Services to work together to provide a better and more joined up service to the public”.
The project was unique in the challenges telent faced but overcame. This was due to the different ways of working of the four individual Authorities and the substantial amount of change processes involved.
The system was deployed successfully and telent continues to support the system working closely with NWFC.