Communities and Local Government (CLG) has awarded the contract to supply the Fire and Rescue Service with the infrastructure for nine regional control centres to EADS Defence & Security Systems.
Announcing the contract, fire minister Angela Smith said it is worth £200m over eight years, and that it marks a major step in the delivery of CLG's Fire Control project.
The project is aimed at increasing the resilience of the fire and rescue services and their capacity to handle major emergencies by providing a state of the art call handling and management system.
The regional control centres will relay information to firefighting crews and deploy the nearest appropriate equipment, such as high volume pumping equipment. They will also be able to automatically back up one another during major incidents and in the event that one centre fails.
Fire Control services will provide include:
- 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.
- In-cab displays so firefighters going to an incident will have constantly updated information, such as a route map, details of known risks and hazards in the locality, floor plans and access details, and the location of the nearest hydrants and water supplies.
EADS will be responsible for building and running the systems that will relay data around the fire service.
"This is a major step forward for the Fire Control project," Smith said. "The government's first duty is to protect the public. 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."
The current system relies on 46 control rooms which are not networked, operating on different systems and standards, and with differing levels of equipment and technology. They are unable to deploy firefighting equipment across authority boundaries.
The cost of networking all the existing control rooms and supplying them with the new technology has been estimated at more than twice that of the Fire Control project.
The project is being procured to allow for it to be phased in and to avoid a single "big bang" handover day. This is intended to ensure the system is reliable and that it will inspire the confidence of firefighters.
On the day of the contract announcement CLG began to recruit the regional control centre directors. They will be responsible for leading operations and will play a pivotal role preparing the centres to go live from 2008.
This article was originally published at Kablenet.
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