The Government is working in partnership with the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) to implement infrastructure and strategic solutions for control rooms to improve the sharing of risk critical information between fire control rooms, and in the longer term, between fire and police/ambulance control rooms. This will allow the transfer of information between control rooms to be electronic instead of a control room operator having to manually contact the other service by telephone. The system is called “Multi Agency Information Transfer” (MAIT) and will allow information to be transferred between control rooms much quicker. This project is progressing well and market engagement with suppliers of the MAIT system took place in March 2022.
Whilst the MAIT project is under way, in the meantime, the Government has worked with the NFCC to establish a separate Broadcast Talkgroup to improve information sharing between control rooms. This has been achieved by introducing two new Airwave Talkgroups (radio channels), a “Fire Broadcast Talkgroup” and a “JESIP (Joint Emergency Services Interoperability Principles) Multi Agency Talkgroup” to improve the sharing of information between fire, police and ambulance.
The Broadcast Talkgroup went live in England and Scotland in October 2020 and in Wales in December 2020. This means that if a fire and rescue service becomes overwhelmed with emergency calls, the affected service can now make an announcement on their control room Airwave Radio, and it will be received in every control room across the county simultaneously. The system has gone through extensive testing with successful results and is now in operational use in England Scotland and Wales under “Business as Usual”. The JESIP Talk group is now live in all Fire Control Rooms and the NFCC has released guidance to support its use.
In conjunction with the NFCC’s Central Programme Office, the Government has provided funding for two Fire Control Managers to be seconded to assist with development of the National Operational Guidance for Fire Control staff. This included updating the current Fire Survival Guidance and training.
Fire Survival Guidance in buildings has now been published. Fire and rescue services are now able to integrate this guidance into their own policies and procedures.
The two secondees have produced guidance for Fire Control Command. This document has now been published. Fire and rescue services are now able to integrate this guidance into their own policies and procedures.
The secondees have also been working alongside the NFCC Central Programme team to develop guidance for Emergency Call Management (People at Risk) which went through a peer review prior to going into full consultation in February 2022.
Work is in progress to produce guidance for fire control staff for handling multiple emergency calls and multiple emergency incidents. This guidance has undergone peer review prior to going into full consultation in March 2022.
To address this recommendation, fire and rescue services must embed the policies and training to support fire control room personnel in the use of the Airwave Talk Groups.
The Home Office and NFCC have worked with BT to establish a more robust way of dealing with Fire Control Rooms becoming overwhelmed with emergency calls resulting from large or protracted incidents.
A procedure has been developed and tested and is currently operational in England, Scotland and Wales on a six month pilot. This means that BT now has a predetermined redistribution plan of how to distribute overflow calls efficiently between other fire and rescue services during periods when a single control room has become overwhelmed with 999 calls due to a large, protracted incident or spate conditions.
In March 2022, the NFCC surveyed all fire and rescue services (with the exception of the LFB) in England about their progress against recommendation 33.16.
For this recommendation, 100% of services (43 services) have, in relation to the Airwave Talk Groups, embedded technical changes to the way information is shared between fire control rooms and between fire, police and ambulance services. This will ensure that accurate and timely information will be available to any service that handles a call for a major incident not in their area, based on the decisions being made in real time on the incident ground. This is currently in use by all fire and rescue services.
The full completion of this recommendation is dependent on the rollout of MAIT. Procurement of the platform is currently underway supported by the NFCC, to make this system available to all fire and rescue services. Procurement is expected to be completed in Autumn 2022.
With the establishment of the Broadcast Talkgroup, the National Fire Chiefs Council have provided guidance on the Talkgroup.
London Fire Brigade have reported that recommendation 33.16 has been completed as all Control officers have received training on the Talkgroup’s protocol. It is further reported that the Brigade’s Vision mobilising system is Multi Agency Incident Transfer (MAIT) enabled in preparation for the implementation of MAIT in 2022.