This year’s British APCO Autumn Event in Newcastle (4-5 November 2015) was notable for a first public appearance by anyone from the Home Office’s Emergency Services Mobile Communications Programme (ESMCP), which is running the procurement of the new £1 billion Emergency Services Network.
Making the opening address in Newcastle on 4 November 2015, Richard Hewlett, Deputy Programme Director, Home Office, admitted that as the Government had opted to split ESN into multiple contracts, or ‘disaggregated procurement’ as he called it, that ‘we need to convince users and suppliers that we can pull all this together’.
Besides the three main contracts covering project management, user services and mobile services (main area network), contracts also have to be let for related projects such as: Extended Area Services (geographic areas the Lot 3 main area network will not cover): air to ground – network and airborne devices; handheld & vehicle devices; control room upgrades; and vehicle installations.
Some 300,000 users will need new radio devices, 45,000 vehicles have to be fitted out, as do 115 aircraft and 230 control rooms need to be upgraded to interface with ESN. On top of that there are multiple contracts which have to be handled by individual fire, police and ambulance forces for training, vehicle fit out and so on.
At the time Hewlett was circumscribed in what he could say as Lot 2 and Lot 3 had not been officially awarded, although as Motorola Solutions and EE were the only bidders for the two lots respectively, it was hardly a secret. The contracts were confirmed on 10 December. The award of the Lot 1 Delivery Partner to KBR had already been announced.
Hewlett explained that the mobilisation period is scheduled to take 21 months. In which time the network has to be designed, built, tested and assured. There is then a 30 months transition period to convert users to ESN. This will be completed in 12 regional transition groups broadly based on the ambulance trust areas, starting in the North West and working around the country.
In terms of providing service assurance, Hewlett said: ‘It is paramount we build up confidence in ESN. We have a dedicated Service Delivery Assurance Team, which will provide demonstrations, and ratchet up the confidence levels of user organisations, so they are confident and happy to go into operation with it.’
An Apps Services team will set up a central reference system to ensure performance parameters are adhered to and to ensure one app doesn’t mess up another.
The new network will be subject to large stress tests with trials at the Notting Hill Carnival and New Year’s Eve. ‘It won’t go live if it doesn’t have the confidence of users and have the functionality we have contracted for,’ Hewlett assured delegates at the event.
The Lot 2 provider (Motorola Solutions) will approve user devices and accessories. Individual emergency services will procure user devices through either a local or via a framework of approved suppliers managed by the Crown Commercial Service (CCS).
Hewlett said that control room upgrades will need to be properly co-ordinated to access ESN functionality. ‘The aim is to upgrade control rooms before the commencement of transition for interoperability.’
He added that there is a key message end users need to hear about this. ‘ESN will not do this for you; you need to do it yourself, but we will ensure you are on track and doing the right things.’
As regards the Extended Area Services contract, the Government will pay for the building of passive infrastructure in remote and rural areas such as central Wales, the Pennines, parts of Yorkshire, the Lake District and West Scotland.
‘We will acquire and design and build sites in these areas, of which there are about 40. The Lot 3 provider (EE) will provide the base stations with eNodeBs, etc and slot them in to the sites.’
ESMCP has still not come up with a viable solution for providing 4G LTE coverage in the London Underground. Hewlett said a number of options are being looked at including the use of dual mode LTE and TETRA devices; interconnections via the Integrated Command and Control System (ICCS) system in command and control rooms; and enhancing the existing WiFi infrastructure.
In terms of service transition between the Airwave TETRA services and the new 4G ESN service, Hewlett admitted that some Airwave contracts will expire before the expected mid-2017 start date for ESN.
‘An important message here,’ said Hewlett, ‘is that there is a gap between some current contract end dates, particularly in the police, and when the new service will be ready. Our intention all along was to extend those contracts where necessary. We will hold conversations with Airwave once contracts have been let and everything is bedded in.’
He warned that preparation for transition planning in the early regions must start soon especially in the North West. ‘Most users will project manage transition themselves guided by ESMCP. They will need technology and engineering resource and they will get money to address that. But we will not write the project plan for you: you will get a template plan and the Lot 1 provider will be there to advise and help.’
Each emergency service organisation will need to nominate a transition manager to lead a transition team. ‘You need to do your own business plan for devices and so on to justify drawing down of funds and to get budgetary approval.’
Organisations will need to consider national user profiles, privileges and access rights (fleet mapping) and plan for hardware delivery and training (as well as training the trainers). Vehicle radio installation needs to be carefully planned with schedules for vehicle delivery/pickup; getting staff in for training and so on.
Answering questions from the audience, Hewlett reiterated that ‘we will provide the coverage you have now’ and that ‘we will be coming round with coverage maps after we have signed contracts’.
In terms of financial support for the process Hewlett said: ‘The Government is doing major financial assessment at moment. We need to see what the police funding allocation is going to be, but our intention is information on this will be there in the new financial year.’
He also confirmed that ESN will be able to provide prioritisation and pre-emption. He said: ‘The mobile network operators guaranteed this. They can kick people off, which I suspect won’t happen.’
Standardising ‘Total Conversation’ applications
ETSI’s Gunnar Hellstrom, who comes from Omnitor, gave an address on its work developing a standard for ‘total conversation’ (TC) whereby video, real-time texting and audio can be added into the functionality of smart mobile devices. ‘This came out of work for deaf, blind and speech impaired people,’ he explained.
With real-time texting the text flows as it is typed so it appears on the receiving person’s screen as the other person types. ETSI is working to ensure the communication protocols are harmonised and interoperable.
‘A common subset of TC is real-time text and audio, which is useful for the hard of hearing or just noisy environments. It is a good alternative when video is not needed or not feasible or you need to be quiet,’ said Hellstrom. He pointed out that texting also means PSAPs can get much more accurate addresses and location information than is sometime possible purely verbally.
Relay Service Provision is another aspect of ETSI’s work on TC. This may be needed when a PSAP does not support a user’s preferred language/modality. By using number analysis and routing logic the user can connect to a 112-call centre and a relay service to enable a three-party connection simultaneously. Alternatively, the PSAP may add the relay service once the session is established.
Another version of this involves adding sign language, where a video call is set up with a PSAP controller and a sign language interpreter. For example, if a deaf person finds a body they can set up a video call on a mobile phone to a sign language interpreter and type in their address or location. Then the interpreter can either sign and type instructions from the PSAP controller, such as: please stay there until the ambulance arrives.
Hallstrom said that the EU requirement for all this is ‘challenging’, as a particular EU universal service directive states that member states need to ensure that access for disabled end-users to emergency services is equivalent to that enjoyed by everyone else.
The goal is therefore to enable fulfilment of the directive to provide emergency services for all, anywhere in Europe for texting, signing and talking users.
ETSI has published guidelines (TR 103 201) on implementation and usage of TC for emergency services and is looking to increase awareness about its usefulness of and what the requirements for TC are.
The main issue is to enable the inclusion of relay services within an emergency call when needed. ETSI is due to finish its work by March 2016 and a draft is out for comment now.
Update: Emergency Services Collaboration Working Group
Jonathan Smith, CFOA Operations Directorate – Policy Support Officer at Hertfordshire Fire & Rescue Service provided an update on the Emergency Services Collaboration Working Group (ESCWG).
ESCWG is dedicating to capturing and disseminating best practice for collaboration between the emergency services during an incident and doing what is right for the end user – i.e. the public.
Central Government has taken an interest in what the ESCWG could offer and initially it got money out of Home Office, DCLG and DoH with all three putting in an equal amount of money – something of a first, Smith observed wryly. Its future is, however, dependent on the Spending Review at the end of November 2015.
Its original terms of reference included the need to establish a central repository of good practice in ES collaboration and get a national overview of the UK as a whole, as things have been done very locally up to this point.
It was also commissioned to research what is meant by collaboration and what does good and bad collaboration look like - the point being not to reinvent the wheel when a new local collaboration project starts.
An 80-page research paper into ES collaboration based on six projects in England and Wales was written by John Parry, Professor Eddie Kane, Dr Denise Martin and Dr Siddhartha Bandyopadhyay and as published on 27 March 2015.
It graded recommendations as to how easy aspects of collaborative working are to implement and covered: co-location of control rooms; creation of single back office; better data sharing; capital resource rationalisation; shared command structures; and a number of others.
Smith added that above all, successful collaboration between ESs is all about relationships. ‘If there isn’t trust between services it won’t happen,’ he emphasised.
He pointed to a number of good collaborations including: NW Ambulance and Greater Manchester Police; and Northamptonshire fire and police trying to create a single organisation.
In Greater Manchester, fire and police set up a community risk intervention team (CRIT) to address the fact that 75% of tasks placed on the police are in fact non-crime related, so if someone else can address these tasks that saves police time. However, Smith noted: ‘By not having fully badged up police or paramedics attending these tasks, it is saving the broader public purse a lot of money – although NOT the police or fire – in fact it costs them do this.’
Looking ahead, Smith said: ‘We need to get some clarity on where ESCWG goes next, as there is no structure behind it to take it forward; it is a talking group really and it cannot dictate or mandate, but it can highlight best practice and mistakes.
‘We also need to secure an outline agreement between stakeholders on the Multi-Agency Incident Transfer (MAIT) system, which needs a strategic owner. We are not sure where it should sit yet though. But it’s all about data transfer and communication, so maybe it should sit within ESN,’ suggested Smith.
Explaining why collaboration between ESs is so important,’ Smith said: ‘Look at the challenge we face. We can’t really predict what will happen in 10, 15, 20 years time, so we need effective collaboration. Take climate change and wide area flooding and the threat to national infrastructure when it happens. No one agency can handle this; there must be collaborative response involving others like the Environment Agency.’
The changing demographics of the UK is another major issue the ESs are facing with the proportion of 85-year olds and over increasing hugely in the years ahead with major implications for additional strain on stretched ES resources.
‘We must collaborate to meet this challenge,’ said Smith, ‘but budgets are decreasing, so we need innovative solutions and to develop relationships with the public.’
Finally, he noted that the Cities & Local Government Devolution Bill may have a considerable impact on the ESs. Governance of Fire & Rescue Services may be put under PCCs and some have got hot under the collar about this.
Smith said: ‘Personally, I think this Bill is out of date because of devolution. There is no police and crime commissioner in Manchester because the local mayor will have this role and if this is a success it may be rolled out across the country. That said; I think we are unlikely to see fire, police and paramedics rolled into one.’
Update: Joint Emergency Services Interoperability Programme
Joy Flanagan, Communications & Engagement Manager at JESIP (Joint Emergency Services Interoperability Programme), gave an update on the post-programme progress following its official ending. The two-year programme ran from September 2012 to September 2014 with the aim of improving the way ESs work together during major incidents.
A small central team has remained post-programme to help embed the JESIP
principles. It sought to address the known issues such as lack of communications, lack of common processes and cultures and the fact that there was no cross sector arrangements existing to address the issues.
Dr Kevin Pollock analysed 32 major incidents and identified recurring failures, poor working practices and organisational planning, inadequate training and a failure to learn lessons among other problems.
A key aim was to ensure that blue light service are trained and exercised together with an initial focus on the actions of commanders in the Golden Hour, although there were a lot of areas to address as well, but the operational focus was the start.
A Joint Doctrine was established setting out the basics:
• Jointly understand the risks: each ES has different risks and they must understand these and not impact on other ESs and get in the way
• Shared situational awareness: information flow up and down chain of command.
The METHANE procedure was established:
M – major incident declared
E – exact location
T - type of incident
H - hazards present or suspected
A – access routes that are safe to use
N – number type severity of casualties
E – ES presence and those required.
Looking at the challenges post-programme, Flanagan said the main task is to ensure that the interoperability capability built by the programme is successfully embedded, maintained and developed until it becomes business as usual.
How well is JESIP embedded? Flanagan said: ‘We did quite well in two years but there is a lot more to do. We need to continue to develop a tri-service approach to assurance and look at how consistency and momentum is maintained against competing priorities. More joint service learning is required too.
Outlining what JESIP needs to do, Flanagan identified the following tasks:
• Develop a 3-5 year plan to allow time to complete tasks: this has been done
• Doctrine: sets policy and what to do
• Training, testing and exercising: develop the tools to educate staff and check learning
• Joint organisational learning: learn lessons and joint working and change the way we do things if we need to
• Proving information for those involved
• Provide assurance back up the chain that this is making a difference.
‘The challenge is to enable local services to do what is right for them locally, but also to meet national resilience, consistency, standard approach and specialist resources,’ said Flanagan.
She said that there is a need to look at devolved administrations and cross border working and to bring in a wider range of Category 1 and 2 responders. ‘We hope to get more of these involved in co-training sessions.’
A Doctrine review is out next year, while the training product updates are awaiting publication. A new website has been built hosting toolkits, products, frameworks, news, etc. Among the new things coming is an ESN Communications Advisor Course.
Day 2, which Wireless was not able to attend, contained presentations on MAIT, Next Gen 999 and a session on mission critical voice from Intelcomm.
Prompted by an ESMCP request, the British APCO event also gave device and solutions vendors a chance to give private presentations to end users as to the merits of their products for ESN.
Among those showcasing their wares were: Callmy, Sonic Communications, Abiom, Motorola Solutions, Sepura, Sat-Comm Broadcast, Getac, DMOnetworks, Selex ES, TETRATAB, Globalstar, Terrafix, In-CAR PC, Bittium, Panasonic Computer Product Solutions, ARL Mobile, Noggin IT, Axess International, Xplore and Nice Systems.