The Joint Emergency Services Interoperability Programme (JESIP) was formerly launched in late November 2012 under a two-year remit. Its aim is to help the three emergency services improve how they work together in the event of major or complex incidents.
Joy Flanagan, engagement manager with JESIP, brought audiences at the British APCO 2013 show up to date on the programme’s developments. Studies into how well the emergency services had responded to past major incidents identified a number of areas that need to be improved. These have resulted in the following drivers for change:
- Challenges with initial command and control and coordination activities on arrival at scene
- A requirement for common joint operational and command procedures
- Roles of others, especially special resources and reasons for their deployment not well understood between the services
- Misunderstandings when sharing incident information and differing risk thresholds not understood
- Difficulties with communication between control rooms and the incident ground
- Issues with use of radio channels
- Acronyms, jargon and differing call signs resulting in hampered communications.
Flanagan said that the JESIP team has scoped out 10 key objectives for the programme and the legacy it aims to leave behind:
- A shared ethos towards emergency response
- Embedding joint guidance, training and exercising
- Improving control room interoperability in the ‘Golden Hour’ (initial response period)
- Improving situational awareness and mobilisation procedures
- Establish joint operating principles to support locally agreed plans
- Raise awareness and understanding of the roles and responsibilities of others within blue light services
- Agree common language and terminology between blue light services at all levels
- Encourage less bureaucracy around information sharing
- Jointly agree models for decision making and risk assessment
- Identify mechanisms to share lessons learnt.
JESIP has established four key workstreams to deliver the above objectives: Doctrine and Organisation; Shared Situational Awareness; Operational Communications; and Training and Exercising.
Flanagan said: ‘We have to look at the impacts on the emergency services. We need to know how to identify a major incident and have efficient methods to escalate it across all three services for the most efficient response. It might only be a major incident for one of the services, but the others need to understand why.’
‘We must ensure they have effective ways of jointly assessing risk and making decisions and help them establish a clear understanding of the roles and responsibilities for those staff who are first at the scene. We need to initiate them using common language and terminology when working together and ensure they introduce new and improved ways of working together in control rooms,’ said Flanagan.
She added that engagement of, and communication with, the three services is fundamental to the success of the project. ‘Our objective is to get the right information to the right people at the right time,’ she said.
Flanagan identified the biggest challenge as cultural, with over 100 organisations impacted by the proposed changes. ‘We have to recognise the scale of change to culture, attitudes and behaviour (JESIP is not scoped to look at technical change). We want the services to be interoperable, not interchangeable.’
She added that differing government structures and funding arrangement will make the delivery model complex, especially when it has to be delivered in an environment of reducing budgets and the way that is impacting on local capacity and priorities.