HRH opens MerseysideHer Royal Highness The Princess Royal has officially opened Merseyside’s new joint Police and Fire Command and Control Centre (JCC) situated at the Fire Authority's headquarters in Bootle.

Two Merseyside Police officers on horseback along with four police officers and four fire officers in undress uniform provided a guard of honour for The Princess Royal for her visit on December 16 where she received a tour from Chief Fire Officer Dan Stephens, Chief Constable Jon Murphy and Assistant Chief Constable Ian Pilling.

During her visit HRH spoke of how impressed she had been with the centre and the value of all of the emergency service staff working there.

Following a tour of the centre that included visiting the police and fire control rooms as well as meeting staff including operational planning teams who are also co-located at the JCC, HRH unveiled a plaque to mark.

After officially opening the centre, she said: “I know how difficult these centres are to bring together… and I congratulate the total of you who have been involved and I’m glad I have been in here for just a little while to find out how it really works.

"For those who work here (the JCC) the technology is only part of what you can achieve. It may help you do a job but you are fundamentally about dealing with people and that’s sometimes when their worst fears are realised. That takes a quite exceptional degree of training and ability to respond. That doesn’t change and although I’m sure this building will help in many respects, it’s a big thank you to those who will serve in it now and in the future."

Momentous milestone for Merseyside
The visit took place on the week that a report to Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority praised the work done by Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service (MF&RS) after an assurance visit to audit the operational readiness of National Resilience (NR) assets provided by MF&RS. The two-day assessment was carried out by the Chief Fire Officers Association (CFOA) National Resilience Assurance Team (NRAT).

Their report stated: “Organisationally MF&RS have very clear and specifically structured management, information and training models. These have provided an environment within which all NR capabilities have not only been established but have developed beyond standard requirements and continue to do so. National and regional deployment/exercise examples were extensive and all had been examined.”

As part of the visit, Princess Anne also met the Chair of Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority, Councillor Dave Hanratty, as well as the Police and Crime Commissioner for Merseyside Jane Kennedy and the Lord Lieutenant and High Sheriff of Merseyside.

Two antique fire appliances, the Dennis F8 built in the 1950s and the open Albion from the 1940s, were also on display for the Princess Royal to see before she left the site.

CFO Stephens said: “This is a momentous occasion marking a real milestone for the emergency services on Merseyside. The centre has excellent facilities including dedicated Strategic and Tactical Co-ordination Group meeting rooms for use during major incidents.

"The JCC will undoubtedly be a significant asset to us and Merseyside Police in the future. Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority opted for a Merseyside solution that would keep jobs on Merseyside."

Great example of partnership working
The Joint Control Centre (JCC) now houses Merseyside Police’s Force Contact Centre handling nearly 1.1 million telephone calls from the public each year including those to 101, general enquiries and 280,000 via the 999 emergency number. It also houses the Police’s Force Control, which allocates personnel to respond to incidents, and the Fire Control which deals with more than 100,000 calls annually - previously these functions were located at five separate sites across Merseyside ahead of going live at the JCC in July 2014.

In addition to the Contact Centre, Force Control and Fire Control, the JCC premises also provide accommodation which for the first time allows the co-location of MF&RS, Merseyside Police, and the North West Ambulance Service NHS Trust (NWAS) Operational Planning teams.

The overall cost of the project including refurbishment of the existing Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority site was £7.6 million and was funded by Merseyside Police and Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority. It is one of the first buildings of its type in the country.

ACC Pilling added: “The provision of this building is a great example of partnership working, and we are seeing clear operational and financial benefits of working alongside our Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service colleagues in this new building. I am delighted that Her Royal Highness was able to join us to celebrate the official opening of the centre. It is a place from which we can deliver our vision of working in partnership to make Merseyside safer.”

JCC statistics
• The Fire and Rescue Authority received a Government grant of £1.8 million towards the build of the Joint Control Centre.
• Control rooms for both Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service and Merseyside Police have relocated to the building. A total of 34 staff are based in Fire Control.
• The JCC also houses Multi-Agency Strategic and Tactical command suites and conference rooms. These are used by Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service (MF&RS), Merseyside Police, and the North West Ambulance Service NHS Trust (NWAS) and staff from other agencies and local authorities to provide high level command and control of major emergency and public order events across Merseyside.
• State-of-the-art technology has been installed and is being utilised by all of the staff.
• This project fully supports the ethos of joint working as mandated in the Civil Contingencies Act in relation to major emergencies.
• The Princess Royal also opened the Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service headquarters on April 22, 2002.