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The London Fire Brigade’s (LFB’s) reaction time to emergencies has been delayed due to a core IT system crashing.
The Vision 4DS system from Capita, which is used by the control room, has crashed five times since it was introduced in November 2015, according to a report from the BBC. It said the system has often failed to alert the most appropriate fire engines for incidents.
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Despite improvements since the system was introduced, crashes continue to cause problems.
“There’s no doubt that the safety of firefighters and the public has been compromised as a result,” the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) told the BBC.
Staff in control rooms have, at times, been forced to resort to pen and paper to take details and instruct fire crews.
While the BBC said it is aware of 14 emergencies that have been affected by the system crashing, the FBU said it could be thousands.
Under a £19.6m 10-year contract between Capita and LFB, the system determines the location of a 999 call made from a mobile phone and directs fire engines to emergencies based on their proximity to the incident.
The LFB was originally due to go live with the system in July 2014, but it was delayed due to a failure in the “factory acceptance testing” in January 2014, according to an update report.
The system replaced the Motorola mobilising system. The decision to replace the previous system was taken after the failed £469m FireControl programme, which aimed to reduce the number of fire service control rooms across the UK from 46 to nine.
A Capita spokesperson said: “We are aware of very occasional intermittent problems with the software and how it works with other providers’ software and systems, and have worked closely with all parties to resolve these issues.
“The London Fire Brigade has well-practiced contingency plans in place to ensure that the ability to respond to incidents is not affected by any interruptions to its control centre service whatsoever.”
“Our software is just one key part of the wide range of systems needed to manage a busy fire control room. For it to work effectively, it relies on several other elements, provided by other parties, working correctly,” the spokesperson added.
The system has made major improvements in response times, with the LFB telling the BBC: “So far the system has contributed to a seven second improvement in the average first appliance attendance times for fire engines across London.”