Future of fire control services up in the air

Future of fire control room service put out to consultation after cancellation of FiReControl project

Future of fire control services up in the air

The UK Government’s decision to cancel the FiReControl project on 20 December 2010 has left the rollout of the Firelink radio communications project up in the air.

The FiReControl project was set up in 2004 to replace England’s 46 standalone fire and rescue control rooms with a resilient network of nine control centres. The scheme was the third strand of the Government’s £1bn-plus Fire and Resilience Programme.

The other two strands, Firelink, a new radio communications link for dispatching FRS resources using the Airwave network, and New Dimensions, a scheme to enhance the FRS’s capacity to respond to terrorist and other large-scale incidents, are largely complete.

Firelink involves providing firemen and vehicles with radio equipment for use on the TETRA Airwave network. But dispatchers in the existing fire and rescue control rooms were using a temporary system (not unlike using a mobile control centre) until the nine new control centres came online.

The difficulty caused by the cancellation of FiReControl project is that it leaves nothing to replace the temporary dispatching system. In addition, not all of the 46 local control rooms have Firelink installed yet. The Department for Communities and Local Government put the decision of how fire and rescue services will be now controlled out to consultation on 13 January. Responses need to be in by 8 April 2011.

Fire minister Bob Neill MP said: ‘This Government believes that the fire and rescue community is best placed to decide the future of their control services. No solution will be imposed. The consultation reviews the legacy assets from the project, as well as lessons learnt, and encourages the sector to make best use of these in their future plans, for the benefit of both the taxpayer and local communities.’

Neill announced on 20 December that an agreement with the main FiReControl contractor Cassidian (formerly EADS Defence and Security) had been reached ‘to call a halt to the trouble project’. A DCLG statement said: ‘The Minister made it clear in the summer that Cassidian must deliver the main IT system to time, cost and quality.

‘The Department and the contractor have now jointly concluded that the project requirements cannot be delivered to an acceptable timeframe.’

Written by Wireless magazine
Wireless magazine

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