A hosted voice and data service from BT is helping the Mid & West Wales Fire & Rescue Service to answer emergency calls from the public more quickly.
Before going live with the new system earlier this year, the fire service had an ageing data network that reached all its 60 operational sites using fixed private circuit or dial-up ISDN links. The old voice network only covered the organisation's eight core administrative sites. Cisco networking hardware supported the data needs, while Norstar modular phone systems supported the voice needs.
The fire service wanted to have a more consistent approach to phone contacts with the public, in line with e-government guidelines. It wanted all incoming calls to be answered in less than 20 seconds and for all callers to be charged at a single rate. Because the Mid & West Wales Fire Service covers such a large geographical area - in excess of 4,500 square miles - some callers were incurring national call rate charges when contacting its Carmarthen headquarters.
The improved service had to be achieved without significant increase to the organisation's existing budget of £450,000 a year, and without any extra support commitment from its IT staff. The whole service - including day-to-day configuration, maintenance and billing - is managed virtually by BT.
BT's phone network solution directs all non-emergency calls to a new 0870 (national call rate) number. Screen consoles, supplied by Datapulse, ensure that all phone operators have up-to-date information.
Nigel Williams, communications & information systems manager for the Mid & West Wales Fire Service, says, "We are already witnessing operational benefits both in terms of a more responsive service to the public and a reduced workload for our in-house IT staff. I am also confident that our limited capital investment will be further justified by a reduction in our future phone call charges.