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Control measure

Provide resilient fire control room equipment

Control measure knowledge

To prevent failure of fire control room activities, fire and rescue services need to provide resilient and appropriate fire control room equipment. The equipment needs to efficiently support the activities of the fire control room and operational personnel.

Equipment for fire control rooms falls into three main categories:

  • Call handling equipment
  • Mobilising equipment
  • Communications equipment

Call handling equipment

All fire and rescue services are responsible for providing the means of receiving emergency calls. They also need to notify the person who is responsible for liaising with the call handling agency on the 999/112 service, referred to as the '999/112 liaison point' about the equipment and the public telecommunication services used in fire control rooms.

To support all situations, fire and rescue services need to provide equipment that is capable of functioning at all times. The system should be capable of operating through unplanned events such as telephone exchange failure, power failure or hardware failure.

The number of calls being received should not prevent emergency calls from being connected to fire control personnel. Three routes should be provided for the call handling agency to contact the fire and rescue service. The secondary and tertiary routes would normally only be used if there is an unusually high level of calls, or a fault on the primary line.

Fire and rescue services should reserve primary lines exclusively for receiving 999/112 calls. The Code of Practice for the Public Emergency Call Service (PECS) exists between the emergency services and the call handling agencies to ensure good practice for a quick response to emergency calls. This code of practice is constantly under review by the 999 liaison committee, which is sponsored by sponsored by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).

Mobilising systems

The main functions of a mobilising system are to record call information and dispatch the selected resources. Secondary functions include displaying alarm conditions for the system and generating statistical information.

When an incident type and address is entered, the system will interrogate its database to match the address information. To provide fire control personnel with as much information as possible it may also search for details including:

  • Risks
  • Duplicate incidents
  • Telephone kiosks
  • Map references
  • Historical data

When an address match is made fire control personnel are presented with a predetermined attendance from the address-based gazetteer. The system makes recommendations, which can be overridden.

Other functions that the system may provide include:

  • The batching of calls in spate conditions
  • Maintaining a log of malicious calls
  • Operating and system alarms
  • A training mode
  • Call handling times
  • The logging of incident data

The use of common coding and interface protocols can allow for systems to be integrated with databases and hardware. This can help to minimise handling of information and ensure a resilient communication system.

The mobilising system will also include an interface with remote equipment so that turnout messages can be transmitted. These messages can be sent to resources in a number of ways; for example, data messages may be sent to a computer located in a fire station or other location where resources are based, even if temporarily. Data links between the mobilising system and the station-end equipment can be provided in a number of ways, such as the wide area network and the public telecommunication services. Multiple bearers are usually employed for resilience.

In the same way that multiple bearers provide resilience against failure in communication routes, data storage and transfer should have built-in resilience and disaster recovery.

In most instances the communications network will comprise a primary, secondary and tertiary backup bearer.

Communications equipment

Fire and rescue services must provide the means for receiving emergency calls. The communication systems adopted may integrate telephone and radio voice services into a common platform that may be able to:

  • Provide clear audio and visual distinction between emergency and non-emergency telephone calls and radio traffic
  • Queue telephony traffic and present priority calls at the top of the queue
  • Indicate how long calls have been in a queue to fire control personnel
  • Manage radio traffic
  • Direct certain telephone call types or call priorities to certain workstations
  • Redirect these calls if there are no personnel available to answer them or they are not answered within a certain time using automatic call distribution (ACD)
  • Allow supervisors to audio monitor calls
  • Allow supervisors to eavesdrop calls and messages
  • Record and provide instant playback of calls
  • Manage radio assets
  • Serve more than one fire control room, for example a collaboration

If this system fails, it would cause disruption to the day to day working of the fire control room. Fire and rescue services should have in place support mechanisms to alleviate this.

Contingency arrangements

Fire control rooms should have contingency arrangements for capturing data, using methods such as:

  • Tablets
  • Standalone computers
  • Paper forms

These arrangements may be required during spate conditions, or in the event of systems failure.

The contingency arrangements should enable recording of incident details, and provide information on the correct type of resource to be mobilised, along with risk information for incidents.

Direct electronic incident transfer

Highways agencies and some police forces use direct electronic incident transfer (DEIT) to electronically send key incident details to each other's mobilising systems. DEIT uses protocols to allow interoperability between mobilising systems from different manufacturers.

The main driver for using DEIT in the fire and rescue service is its potential to deliver quick, reliable information exchange between all fire control rooms as well as those of other agencies. This saves time and provides a clear understanding of the assistance required to resolve an incident. DEIT may be useful in spate conditions, assisting fire control rooms in recording incident details on their mobilising system and passing them directly into a queue on the mobilising system of the affected control, for their attention.

This approach supports the intraoperability, as described on the GOV.UK website about multi agency incident transfer (MAIT).

Fire and rescue services should liaise with other emergency responders in their area to establish a communication strategy. This should consider the use of DEIT and alternative methods, such as the use of telephones.

Strategic actions

Fire and rescue services should:
  • Provide resilient and appropriate equipment to support fire control room activities

  • Ensure there are reliable communications lines between call handling agencies and the fire control room

  • Ensure there are reliable communications lines between the fire control room and relevant personnel

  • Have contingency arrangements to temporarily record emergency calls and operational information

  • Ensure that data captured using contingency arrangements is transferred into the normal systems once they are functioning

  • Consider the use of direct electronic incident transfer (DEIT) as part of their resilient fire control room arrangements

  • Establish a communication strategy with other emergency responders in their area

Tactical actions

Incident commanders should:
  • Have an understanding of the equipment used by the fire control room, including its functions and limitations