Agenda item

North West Fire Control - Annual Report 2016-17


The Head of North West Fire Control (NWFC) was invited to the meeting to deliver a presentation for Members on the call handling process at North West Fire Control.


She began by explaining the set up of the control room operators. Each operator had access to three screens displaying: an integrated communications control system (ICCS); intergraph computer-aided dispatch (ICAD); and a geographical information system (GIS).  All systems were utilised together to enable operators to enter incident details accurately and quickly to ensure the correct mobilisation of resources.  The Chief Fire Officer and Chief Executive informed Members that Gartan (the Service’s staffing system for On-Call firefighters) auto-fed the live availability of crews into NWFC’s mobilising system.  It also auto-fed updates on the location, type and availability of resources.


A Member queried whether the system would reflect that an appliance had been mobilised prior to or after it had left to attend an incident.  The Head of North West Fire Control confirmed that both scenarios were possible.


A Member queried what would happen if only three individuals were available to crew an appliance.  The Head of North West Fire Control informed Members that the minimum crewing for an appliance was four firefighters.  If the crewing level at a station was below this the type of appliance changed (i.e. to a small incident unit) and that operators would be aware of this before mobilising a resource.  If an appliance was mobilised and did not meet minimum crewing requirements for an incident, officers would radio in to NWFC so that another appliance could be dispatched.


A Member queried how officers could be certain that staff availability data was as accurate as possible within NWFC systems.  The Head of North West Fire Control informed Members that an update was received from Gartan by NWFC every 12 seconds through the live feed to their systems which ensured that accurate mobilisations occurred.


The Head of North West Fire Control informed Members of the mobilising functionality and explained the process taken prior to mobilising an appliance:


-       Calling line identifier and enhanced information service for emergency calls to quickly identify location.

-       GIS map zoom for locations.

-       Customer rules engine for automated workflows and emergency call management prompts.

-       Common incident type sets across all fire and rescue services.

-       Fire and rescue service configurable pre-determined attendance set against common incident type set.

-       Variation in normal mobilising policy applied during spate conditions.


She informed Members that the creation of North West Fire Control had enabled borders to be effectively ignored between the participating fire and rescue services, improving response times as appliances could be mobilised over the border if they were closer to an incident. 


A Member queried what the impact would be of changes to Manchester’s fire cover model on the Service.  The Chief Fire Officer and Chief Executive informed the Committee that Manchester would usually consult with the Service prior to undertaking any proposed changes to their model that could affect the Service.


A representative from the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) was invited by the Chair to ask a question.  The FBU representative queried whether skills sets were fed into the mobilising system to determine the availability of crews before appliances were mobilised to incidents.  The Chief Fire Officer and Chief Executive explained that a skills matrix was provided within Gartan.


The Head of North West Fire Control continued her presentation and highlighted the recent amendments to Cheshire’s mobilising policy in relation to automatic fire alarms in.  She informed Members that the change in policy had enabled more effective management of unwanted fire signals and had prevented unnecessary turnouts of appliances.


The Head of North West Fire Control drew Members’ attention to NWFC’s performance targets.  She informed Members that the current target for alerting the first response from the time a call was answered was “no more than 90 seconds”.  She highlighted that the average time was around 107 seconds.  She explained that there was a balance between speed and accuracy and that CFRS required NWFC to follow certain processes which did lengthen calls e.g. call challenge.


She highlighted the benefits experienced by CFRS as a result of being part of NWFC:


-       Emergency call management protocols – reducing unnecessary mobilisations and maintaining pump availability for critical incidents.

-       Bespoke CFRS attendances linked to converged incident types.

-       Faster cross border attendances inside the North West region.

-       Cost per call per operator £9.99 (pre NWFC £47.23 for CFRS).

-       Annual savings of £0.43m based on 2014/15 rates.


The Head of North West Fire Control concluded her presentation by highlighting future changes that were underway to further improve call handling times. These included: enhanced caller location information using GPS instead of mobile phone mast triangulation; refining search options on Gazetteer (the address database); reviewing mobilising rules to remove any unnecessary delays; and rolling out a pilot involving pre-alerting.  The Chief Fire Officer and Chief Executive informed Members that using GPS would significantly improve response times to road traffic collisions as it would help the operators to mobilise more accurately.


The Head of North West Fire Control concluded her presentation and the Director of Governance and Commissioning introduced the report which provided further details concerning the performance of NWFC during 2016-17.


He outlined the current system performance statistics which included information on the availability of the mobilising system, faults within the system and the speed of the system.  The report also contained further information on call handling, mobilising performance, the costs of the service, staff performance and business continuity plans.




[1]       the North West Fire Control – Annual Report 2016-17 be noted.

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