Control room merger moves a step closer

Related pages
The report discussed at today's meeting
Fire Authority decision on future of control room (September 2011)
Failure of regional project paves way for new opportunities (December 2010)
Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service's control room

14 December 2011

The proposal for Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service to share an emergency control room in Cambridgeshire has moved a step closer following today’s meeting of Buckinghamshire & Milton Keynes Fire Authority.

Members heard that a bid for the set-up costs has been submitted to the government, and that Remsdaq – the firm whose mobilising equipment is used in the control room at Huntingdon – has confirmed that there is no technological barrier to the integration of information technology systems.

Fire Authority Chairman Councillor David Rowlands said: “We are confident that by joining an already established and successful control room partnership in Huntingdon, and with adequate funding support, this proposal can be delivered by 1 April 2013.”

He said Buckinghamshire & Milton Keynes Fire Authority would make every effort to redeploy control room staff affected by the proposal. As a first step, substantive recruitment into any role that control staff have the skills to do, or could have with a reasonable amount of training, is being filled on a temporary or fixed-term basis.

Councillor Rowlands added: “The collaboration presents a unique and innovative opportunity to promote inter-regional working while providing increased interoperability and resilience and the introduction of common ways of working.

“The move could potentially generate savings of £600,000 a year without compromising the safety of the public or our firefighters.

“A geographically remote control room will be able to alert staff and mobilise our vehicles and officers in line with the agreed response standards and community risk management arrangements.

“While local knowledge is useful, it is not essential for a mobilising centre to be successful. The size and geography of the area served by Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service means that any individual control room operator may have little knowledge of some of the areas to which calls are directed.

“Local knowledge is far more relevant to fire crews, and local topography and risk information continues to be an important aspect of a firefighter’s role. The use of telephone number-recognition technology will greatly assist in caller identification and location.”

The plan to share a control room follows the cancellation of a government project, called FiReControl, which would have replaced the 46 fire service control rooms in England with nine regional centres.

The project was announced in 2003 and scrapped last year after a number of delays. Under this project, Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service and the other eight fire and rescue services in the South East would have shared a control room in Fareham, Hampshire, from 2012.

Buckinghamshire & Milton Keynes Fire Authority considered a number of options before deciding at its meeting on 28 September that a partnership with Cambridgeshire Fire & Rescue Service, to which Suffolk Fire & Rescue Service has already transferred its control room function, appeared to offer the best combination of service, value and readiness to undertake its fire control business.

It also looked at the possibility of a partnership with Royal Berkshire and Oxfordshire Fire & Rescue Services, outsourcing to London Fire Brigade or remaining as a standalone control room serving only Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes.

A final decision on the proposal to move the control room to Huntingdon is expected early next year.