essfireA recent survey of emergency services first responders has highlighted recent improvements in interoperability but suggested that challenges still remain to achieve optimum integration.

In the survey, commissioned by the Emergency Services Show, 54% of first responders said that the roles and responsibilities of each service attending emergency incidents are fully understood, while 31% disagreed.

However, 97% of respondents felt that further multi-agency training would improve co-operation between teams attending incidents such as the recent Sheppey Bridge road traffic incident which featured police, fire and ambulance services as well as voluntary organisations like the Red Cross, St John’s Ambulance and Salvation Army and private sector recovery operators.

Over 80% also agreed that a lack of multi-agency training can endanger lives. Despite financial pressures relatively few (33%) also said that less priority had been given to such training within their organisation during the last six months.

Interoperability issues
Miscommunication emerged as by far the commonest problem first responders experience when co-operating with other emergency services at incidents, with some three-quarters saying this was an issue.

Under-resourcing of staff was also identified as a problem by 45%, but just under a third also said over-resourcing was equally an issue. Incompatible equipment was also identified as a source of problems by just under 30%, while 17% felt that equipment was duplicated by different services.

More than two-thirds (68.9%) of respondents said that their service did not currently share any resources with other emergency services, but 21.2% said they did share station facilities. Around one in twenty also identified management staff, workshops and fleet as shared resources. Asked if other resources could be shared that are not already, respondents most commonly identified stations, training facilities, control rooms and communications equipment.

Benefits of new technologies
Looking at how new products and technologies have helped to transform operations in the emergency services, just under three-quarters said advances in mobile communications had had a positive effect. Around 60% also said that advances in vehicles and vehicle technology had made a positive of very positive difference.

Nearly two-thirds (64%) said advances in Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) had also made a positive or very positive impact with lighter weight and superior protection both identified as positive benefits.