Every emergency response by the Fire and Rescue Service starts with Fire Control – the highly trained and professional operators who answer the 999 call, mobilise the resources and oversee the incident to its conclusion.
Our Service Control Centre can be found at our Potterne site, and it operates 24 hours a day, every single day of the year. There are four watches, each working a shift pattern of two days (8am to 6pm), two nights (6pm to 8am) and four days off.
Within the Networked Fire Services Partnership, we work with colleagues in Devon & Somerset FRS and Hampshire & Isle of Wight FRS; by using the same technology, we can all mobilise for one another if need be, which provides essential resilience during ‘spate’ conditions and business continuity events.
When they answer a 999 call, the Control operator must be able to stay calm and glean all of the information needed – not always easy when the caller is distressed, in panic or in pain.
Having analysed what is happening and mobilised the most appropriate resources, the role of the Control room doesn’t end there. As the incident progresses, there may be reinforcement moves – both to the incident and to cover at empty fire stations – followed by subsequent reliefs. At the same time, operators will be answering repeat phone calls to the same incident and mobilising to simultaneous incidents throughout the Service area.
It’s not just fires – there are over 100 different types of incident that Control can deal with, from animal rescues to assisting other agencies, and from road traffic collisions to people stuck in, on or under things!
In addition, our Control systems are constantly monitored as we always need to be prepared for emergency situations. Staff do daily tests of communication equipment to identify any faults, and make sure all of our databases are kept up to date with information that we may need.
Control also supports operational training, by taking part in live-time exercises, ensuring that the links between them and the emergency response on the ground are maintained to the highest standard.