Coastguard on call
22 May 2012
Surrey’s landlocked 999 joint emergency control centre now has direct line to coastguard.
Testing and launching their new joint emergency control centre in March made the Isle of Wight and Surrey Fire & Rescue Services two of the first to show the innovative efficiency of localised public sector collaborations.
After the cancellation of RCC (Regional Control Centre) directive left these emergency services in the lurch, the new Coalition Government’s localised approach has enabled these Fire & Rescue Services to shine.
Simon Chandler is the Telecoms and Technology Systems Manager at Surrey Fire & Rescue. He explained the conundrum Surrey’s control room faced and how, when given the opportunity, the technical know-how within services across the UK can collaborate to reduce costs and improve service provision. “Just before the Coalition came to power and threw the RCC directive out, control rooms contained ageing equipment which was often no longer supported and replacement parts were scarce. Continuing down this route was unacceptable – people’s lives depend on these calls. Cyfas has been manufacturing specialist control room communication equipment for many years. We upgraded to their CX3000 Integrated Control Room System because it would help future-proof the control centre by providing additional capabilities and scalability. It enabled our operators to make, take and manage calls from both telephone and Airwave (radio) talk groups from a single touch screen.”
Surrey Fire & Rescue’s innovative direction was compatible with their Isle of Wight counterparts through a previous mobile data collaboration, so they joined forces. Surrey had been in discussions with them about a collaboration to increase speed of service while lowering running costs by merging 999 control rooms.
“These are exciting times. We can collaborate to improve systems based on our niche working knowledge. Each fire and rescue service has something to give but they all need to upgrade their infrastructures and the government’s recent release of funds to achieve this is the perfect opportunity to create what’s needed both now and in the future. Further upgrading the new CX3000 last March helped enable this dramatic rise in control room capacity,” Chandler added.
Now, the merged control room’s 999 call volumes are expected to reach 1000 per month and the number of available Airwave talk groups has jumped from two to five.
It was important that 999 calls were answered in strict order of arrival regardless of their origin. The CX3000 enabled this so operatives could concentrate on speed of response rather than worrying about balancing both geographical areas. However, the technology still enables management to identify calls from both locations for analysis. More importantly, in the event of an incident, it gives the Fire & Rescue Service an opportunity to automatically route calls to individual operators dedicated to managing responses to larger scale emergencies.
Prior to the upgrade, incoming radio calls from fire and rescue workers would start with the caller verbally giving their call sign before the operator could assist. Now the CX3000 system automatically identifies them saving precious time in the event of an emergency.
Perhaps most importantly, the operative can now have an enormous amount of smart telephone service information on screen. For the first time, they can dial other emergency services supporting Surrey and the Isle of Wight by just touching the screen once.
“This makes the Surrey Fire & Rescue service the only landlocked emergency service to have a ‘call coastguard’ button on every 999 call operator’s screen,” concluded Chandler.
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