Tech upgrade benefits West Mids 999 fire callers

New tech upgrade lets control room staff pinpoint emergencies and send fire engines more rapidly



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Published on 20 June 2022

System will automatically pinpoint emergencies

A major tech upgrade in Staffordshire and West Midlands Fire Control (SWMFC) is benefiting 999 callers.

The ‘Vision 4’ system enables control room staff to pinpoint the locations of emergencies even more accurately and quickly, and to mobilise fire engines and other resources more rapidly.

It will be used to handle approximately 70,000 calls taken by the control room each year, and to manage resources at 38,000 incidents attended by firefighters across the West Midlands and Staffordshire.

Since its ‘go live’ on 7 June, the system has been used to manage more than 2,000 999 calls across the two fire and rescue services’ areas.

Just two days after its launch, the system was used by SWMFC to manage a significant fire at a paper processing and recycling plant in Birmingham to which 20 fire engines were initially mobilised.

Over the course of the following week, it played a critical role in managing the many resources at the scene as well as ensuring fire and rescue cover for the rest of the West Midlands conurbation.

A control room operator works at a large computer screen

Group Commander Kelly Whitmore, who heads up SWMFC, said: “Staffordshire and West Midlands Fire Control was at the heart of the response to the Birmingham fire, which was declared a major incident.

“Our new ‘command and control’ system was key to our handling of the many 999 calls that came in, the mobilisation of resources and management of those resources over the following days and nights.

“West Midlands Fire Service aims to respond to serious incidents in just five minutes. Our control room is literally the first port of call for people in an emergency. It’s essential that our systems enable us to provide the service our communities expect in times of need.”

Vision 4’s mapping uses geo-location information from callers’ phones to automatically pinpoint them to within just a couple of metres. This can help to save vital time when callers are distressed or otherwise unable to give their location.

It also takes account of, for example, road closures when suggesting the closest and most appropriate resources to mobilise.

This sort of information will be used by fire control operators as they quickly and professionally assess the call, to ensure they mobilise the most appropriate number and type of resources, equipment and personnel.

In future, the system could be used to:

  • electronically share information between different agencies’ control rooms, for example during a large-scale incident
  • put the nearest fire crews on ‘pre alert’, so they can prepare to respond as soon as full incident details are available
  • decide – in a split second – the types of vehicles, crew numbers, skills and equipment needed at an emergency.

SWMFC’s roll-out of Vision 4 has been supported by suppliers SSS Public Safety, as well as West Midlands Fire Service’s Digital and Data teams.