This project is creating a national network of Fire and Rescue Service control centres which will handle all 999-calls to the Fire and Rescue Service and mobilise resources to incidents locally, regionally and nationally.
The FiReControl project will increase the resilience of the Fire and Rescue Service and its capacity to handle major emergencies by providing a linked network and automatic back-up call system. The network of nine regional control centres for England will also relay vital information to firefighters.
Alongside the contract signature, Communities and Local Government set out their timetable for the roll out of the project, confirming that control centres are on course to start going live from 2009.
The contract with EADS Defence & Security Ltd is worth £200 million plus. EADS Defence & Security is a leading provider of defence, communications and control systems. The consortium that they lead has extensive experience of working with both the Fire and Rescue Service in the UK as well as with emergency services abroad.
The new system will be based on the processes that have been developed through working extensively with members of the Fire and Rescue Services. It will provide improved functionality, bringing all FRSs up to the standard of the best current controls by providing "best of breed" proven technology.
Following formal contract signature, Phil Woolas, Minister for Local Government, said:
"The FiReControl project is all about creating a more resilient Fire and Rescue Service.
In today's world of industrial accidents, terrorist attacks and large scale natural disasters we need to build resilience at national regional and local levels. Given these threats doing nothing was not an option. Automatic back-up and transfer of calls to another region in times of heavy loading or failure are essential.
Current systems can mean that it can take time for a local fire and rescue control room to effect back-up arrangements in these circumstances, whereas the new system will be automatic and almost instant. The deployment of the Government's £200 million investment in the New Dimension equipment - urban search and rescue, high volume pumps and mass decontamination teams - will be made all the more effective by the new FiReControl system."
The new IT system will be phased-in gradually, to avoid a single 'big bang' handover. There will be extensive testing before handover to ensure is reliable and the decisions to cut-over to the new system will be taken by the Fire and Rescue Service.
FiReControl is a national project developed in collaboration with the Fire and Rescue Service and delivered at both regional and FRA level. Each control centre will be run by a company owned by the local Fire and Rescue Authorities in that region and whose directors are nominated by those authorities, guaranteeing local accountability.
Work is underway to set up these companies and two have recently been set up - in the West Midlands and North East. The companies are limited by guarantee as not for profit bodies. The first company established was the East Midlands in November 2006.