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 and the procurement process is ongoing.
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 FRS 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, 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.
Survival Guidance for all incident types, emergency call management people at risk and Fire Control Command guidance have now been published. FRSs are now able to integrate this guidance into their own policies and procedures.
Guidance for fire control staff for handling multiple emergency calls and multiple emergency incidents has been published recently.
To address this recommendation, FRSs 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 known as “Operation Willow Beck” 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 FRSs during periods when a single control room has become overwhelmed with 999 calls due to a large, protracted incident or spate conditions.
The system was used several times in anger during the July/August 22 wildfires with successful outcomes.
In August 2022, the NFCC surveyed all FRSs (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 FRSs.
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 FRSs. Procurement is expected to be completed in Winter 2022.
With the establishment of the Broadcast Talkgroup, the NFCC has provided guidance on the Talkgroup.
The London Fire Brigade (LFB) has 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 when it is rolled out nationally.