Three months on, the UK's first Combined Fire Control is delivering an effective and resilient service for people working and living in Cambridgeshire and Suffolk, while providing value for money, according to the fire and rescue services.
Cambridgeshire and Suffolk have merged their command and control functions, while maintaining their identities as individual fire and rescue services. A total of 32 control operators now work as a single team at the Combined Fire Control, based at Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue (CFRS) Headquarters in Huntingdon.
So far over 3,600 emergency calls have been handled by the team, including almost 2,200 in Cambridgeshire and 1,500 in Suffolk. This includes times when there have been major incidents, with multiple 999 calls handled for both counties simultaneously.
The cost savings associated with this innovative move are anticipated at up to £400,000 per year for both fire services, a spokesperson told FIRE.
Buckinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service has expressed an interest in joining the Combined Fire Control, with its fire authority set to make a final decision next month.
Mark Sanderson, Assistant Chief Fire Officer for Suffolk said: "Our aim at the outset was to create a Combined Fire Control that was effective and resilient whilst helping us improve value for money. We continue to focus on ensuring that the people of both Suffolk and Cambridgeshire are receiving an effective 999 service and that our fire engines are dispatched to incidents as quickly as possible.
"As we approach the third month of operation I think it's fair to say that we are achieving this. Our efforts remain focused on delivering what is an essential service to the public."
Neil Newberry, Assistant Chief Fire Officer for Cambridgeshire, said: "When the Regional Control Centres were abandoned, it encouraged fire and rescue services up and down the UK to think about the alternatives.
"Many, like ourselves and Suffolk, agreed with the concept of merged controls and could see the obvious benefits. By using tried and tested technology and involving all levels of staff − from fire control operators to managers − we have been the first in the UK to create a Combined Fire Control and are now leading the way."
Roy Pegram, Chairman of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Fire Authority said: "I am extremely pleased with the way that this initiative has been adopted and accepted by both Cambridgeshire and Suffolk fire and rescue services. It demonstrates a level of co-operation and collaboration that prior to this project we could only aspire to."
Colin Spence, Suffolk County Council's Portfolio Holder for Pubic Protection said: "This is only the first step for the Combined Fire Control and I'm looking forward to continuing our work with Cambridgeshire and realising our longer term plans. Our Combined Fire Control will be one of the very best in the country and provides excellent value for money for tax payers in both Suffolk and Cambridgeshire".
The Combined Fire Control covers an area of 2,800 square miles, making it one of the largest areas in the UK. It uses tried and tested technology, including Resque NX technology from Resmdaq and Enhanced Information Service for Emergency Calls (EISEC) technology to pinpoint the location of landline numbers. Automatic Location Service for Emergency Calls (ALSEC) technology to identify mobile phone locations is soon to come.
Also included in the control is technology from BT in the form of its Assure Voice Continuity service, this ensures resilience, as emergency calls can now be switched to secondary control in just a few seconds.
A presentation by Cambridgeshire, Suffolk and Buckinghamshire fire and rescue services on the practicalities of combining command and control functions will be delivered at the Annual Fire Conference and Exhibition in Bournemouth on March 20-21, 2012.
Rachel Band is a control operator in the Combined Fire Control, having previously worked in the Cambridgeshire control for just over a year. She says that the merger has been challenging, but is working: "Once we get a 999 call, it's all about working together, staying calm, getting all the information we need and mobilising the right people to be in the right place.
"Yes, it can be challenging, but I know I'm helping people, who can often be in very real need of urgent help. I speak to so many people who rely on me to provide quick, clear and accurate information. You feel you're in the heart of things
"It's complex, but we have great support in our team and there's always help available."
Photo: Neil Newberry (Assistant Chief Fire Officer for Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service), Roy Pegram (Chairman of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Fire Authority), Andy Fry (Chief Fire Officer for Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service), Colin Spence (Portfolio Holder for Public Protection at Suffolk County Council), Mark Sanderson (Assistant Chief Fire Officer at Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service).
Posted February 14th, 2012 at 1400 by Andrew. Comment by emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org