Date posted: 17.09.10

Bedfordshire and Luton Fire and Rescue Service is investing in new IT for its 999 firefighter mobilising unit at Kempston - as it can wait no longer for a proposed Regional Control Centre.


"Our priority is saving lives and to maintain that promise we must have the technology to alert and despatch our fire and rescue crews within seconds. Our existing system is still working but it is so old that spares are no longer available so we need to take steps now to introduce a new one," explained Assistant Chief Fire Officer Robert Hull.


"The Combined Fire Authority had previously put £200,000 in reserves to cover the costs of technology and training for a new system - in case the time came when we could wait no longer for the Regional Control Centre. That time is now."


The new technology will be housed in the existing BLFRS Fire Control building at Kempston. Existing staff will be trained in the new technology. The modern system will bring added advantages as it will more readily interface with other computer systems used elsewhere in the organisation.


"We have already looked at various IT options but a final decision has yet to be made. However we expect to go for a tried and tested system which can be tailored to our specific needs - and of course public safety and system security will be two key issues."


The system will mobilise fire crews from 14 stations across the county, to incidents where people are in danger or distress.


Regional Control Centres were first suggested about ten years ago by the then Labour Government. The project has been delayed time and time again and its future is now uncertain in the current public sector spending cuts.


"If the RCC does happen in the East of England and we move over to that,  BLFRS will be applying to the Government to compensate us for this £200,000 we are now spending under the 'New Burdens' package which was part of the original RCC plan. It is not clear if that money will be forthcoming in the current cut backs. But in the scheme of things, without the RCC idea, we would have had to replace our control IT anyway - so it is not an extra cost to the tax payer.


"We have kept the old system going for as long as we can - but as anyone who uses technology will know a system which is more than ten years old is obsolete."


The decision was approved by the CFA at a meeting on Thursday September 9, at Dunstable Community Fire Station.