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Control measure
Provide multiple communications bearers

Control measure knowledge

It is foreseeable that single communication lines such as the PSTN could fail temporarily. Where this is the case it is vital that the call handling agency can still quickly connect an emergency call to fire control room. It is less likely, but still foreseeable, that any alternative line of communications could also fail.

A number of possible routes of communication are available to connect a call handling agency to an emergency control room. These include fixed private wire systems, public telephone systems, voice over internet provider systems and mobile communication systems. As with all technological solutions the means for communicating are changing all the time.

Some fire and rescue services have arrangements in place for calls to be handled by other emergency control rooms if the call handling agency is not able to quickly connect to a control room operator.

(PECS Code of Practice, January 2011)

In the same way as lines between call handling agencies and fire control rooms should be duplicated, it is also possible to provide multiple bearers for the mobilising system and communications system.

The mobilisation message to a fire station can be via the fire and rescue services wide area network, PSTN, private wire or mobile network. When considering back up bearers it is good practice to spread the risk across more than one of these bearer types.

With communications to resources, which are not at a fire station, a nationally procured solution is currently used for the main communications bearer. However, data and voice traffic can also be passed by mobile or satellite networks. This again spreads the risk of failure and ensures fire and rescue services can meet their duties (Fire and Rescue Services Act 2004).

Strategic actions

Fire and rescue services should:
  • Ensure they are aware of current good practice in providing reliable communications lines between call handling agencies and the fire control room and between fire control rooms and operational resources
  • Ensure they have three routes into the fire control room and that at least one of these uses a separate network from the others. They should also consider multiple bearers for mobilising systems and communications.

Tactical actions

Incident commanders should:
  • Implement service resilience procedures in an equipment failure (business continuity plan)