The government has signed a £200m deal with global defence supplier EADS Defence and Security Systems to provide a new fire control network based on regional centres.
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Fire minister Angela Smith said the new contract to supply the infrastructure for the national network of nine regional control centres for the Fire and Rescue Service would relay information to firefighting crews and deploy the nearest appropriate firefighting equipment.
The current system relies on 46 control rooms which are not networked and operate on different systems and standards, and with differing levels of equipments and technology.
They cannot deploy firefighting equipment across authority boundaries. The cost of networking all 46 control rooms and supplying them with the new technology is estimated at more than twice the cost of the Fire Control project.
Fire crews will be able to automatically back one another up during major incidents and in the event that one centre fails, providing a highly effective and resilient Fire and Rescue Service. The centres are due to go live from 2008.
Smith said, “The choice of the right supplier for this project’s IT requirements is therefore vital. At the heart of this project is the ability for the control centres to back each other up and to provide information direct to firefighters on the ground.
“The technology provided under this contract will help to identify the location of incidents more quickly and precisely, ensure that the correct equipment is mobilised as quickly as possible, and provide firefighters with information on the incident location. Ultimately this will help to further reduce the number of lives lost to fire.”
Communities and Local Government, formerly the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, has been working with the Fire and Rescue Service, the Local Government Association and Chief Fire Officers’ Association to deliver the Fire Control project.
Phil Toase, president of the Chief Fire Officers’ Association welcomed the investment in the Fire and Rescue Services. “We will continue to work with the Government, and now with the supplier, to ensure that the project will enable the Fire and Rescue Service to deliver a service to the public that rises to the challenges of the 21st century.”
EADS Defence & Security Systems will provide:
- Caller location so the location of a member of the public calling by telephone for help (whether mobile or landline) will be identified automatically saving time;
- Satellite positioning to tell control operators which fire appliances, with the correct equipment on board, have the shortest travel time to an incident;
- Computer-aided systems to enable staff to locate and directly mobilise the nearest available appropriate resources automatically, using data-transmission, not voice messages.
The company is also due to provide in-cab displays for firefighters with information such as:
- A map showing the quickest route to the incident;
- Details of known risks and hazards in the building and/or the locality;
- Floor plans and access details;
- The location of the nearest hydrants and water supplies;
- Relevant standard operating procedures for the type of incident concerned – e.g. how to deal with particular types of chemical or on how to dismantle particular types of car.
The project is being procured so as to allow for it to be phased-in and to avoid a single big bang handover day, which will ensure the system is reliable and will give extra confidence to the public and firefighters as the system changes.
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