Andrew Bale, Chief Executive, Resilient Networks, looks at how fire services can make best use of government funding.

With the news that FiReControl replacement projects will go ahead at fire authorities across England, government and fire services now need to focus on how they can avoid another very costly and public failure.

The FiReControl project was originally conceived with the aim of replacing 46 fire and rescue services' local control rooms across England. It was to include nine purpose-built regional control centres which would be linked by a new IT system. However, the project failed and was scrapped in December 2010, taking with it almost £500m in taxpayer's funding. If projects such as this are to be a success this time around, greater care must be taken in the technology decisions made and creative solutions need to be found to integrate multiple organisations effectively and with no disruption of service to the public.

The news that there is over £74m available which will be split between over 40 fire authorities across England in order to aid the funding of command and control projects, is welcoming. The funding will allow the fire services to install different technology across the authorities. We also know that technology, when implemented and used correctly, is a tool which can enhance the aid that organisations, such as fire departments, are able to provide.

Looking into this further, the various investments the fire services are making towards greater control room resilience, is also saving them money through shared service initiatives. This can be seen with Cambridgeshire and Suffolk, who recently merged to become the first combined fire control room in the UK. The combined control room has enabled them to not only ensure that calls are always answered, thanks to a flexible and agile telephony solution, but also allows them to save up to £400,000 a year. This provides citizens with a more assured response for their emergency calls, with a reduced costs burden on the public purse.

It is not only combining control rooms and sharing services, which will enable savings; most secondary control rooms will never get used and having them "ready to go" is an extra cost. It seems a logical idea to dispose of that asset and release the money it is costing to service that infrastructure. However, the nature of work in the emergency services means that there needs to be a way of maintaining business continuity in the event of a crisis.

One way in which this can be done is through "buddying-up" - where, with the help of inbound voice solutions, fire services in various counties are able to remove the necessity of the secondary control room and work alongside one another on a shift basis - taking control of incoming calls at different times of the day, be it morning, evening or night.

This form of rationalising means that the fire services is able to continue operating as normal, whilst saving on the infrastructure maintenance and personnel costs often associated with keeping a secondary control room running.


See April issue of FIRE featuring Special Focus on Control Rooms.


Posted April 17th, 2012 at 0945 by Andrew. Comment by emailing: