Handlers taking calls by pen and paper, report says

Lives are being put at risk due to failing IT systems in fire control rooms, according to a report published by the FBU titled Losing Control.

The report claims 999 call handlers have resorted to taking down details with pen and paper.

Staff report screens freezing while taking emergency calls, fire crews being sent to the wrong address, and handlers unable to dispatch fire engines because the system cannot recognise locations.

The situation has reached crisis point, according to the Fire Brigades Union.

 “Control members are working under extreme pressure, using systems that constantly fail,” the report said.

“On these occasions, it is only by the skill, professionalism and initiative of control staff that an emergency response is provided at all.”

One control member quoted in the report said: “The system is frequently so slow it is unworkable. My colleagues and I have been left with no option but to take details of emergency fire calls by pen and paper and physically telephone the fire station landlines to mobilise appliances.

“When this happens, call handling times increase with a knock-on effect on response times. On several occasions, we have been unable to match an address and thus unable to mobilise appliances.”

The report also heavily criticises the cuts faced by the fire service over the last few years.

It states: “The fire and rescue service faces unprecedented threats. Most local services have seen their central funding reduced by more than a quarter and the likelihood is that there are further reductions to come.

“Against this background, the fire and rescue service must find significant savings in order to continue to deliver a fast and effective emergency response.

“The pressure of austerity cuts is forcing the pace of organisational and structural change within the fi re and rescue service, to the detriment of public and firefighter safety.”

Original source