New Thames Valley Fire Control Service goes live

Tue 28 Apr, 2015

Emergency calls to Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Services are now being handled by a new, state-of-the-art joint control centre based in Calcot, Reading.

Thames Valley Fire Control Service answers 999 calls and mobilises resources on behalf of the three services to incidents across the Thames Valley, serving a combined population of around 2.25 million. The phased transition was completed last week.

It replaces the three individual control rooms, including Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service’s in Aylesbury. These were in urgent need of updating following the termination of the Government’s national FiReControl project in 2010, which was working towards a single control centre, based in Hampshire, for the nine fire and rescue services in the south east. 

Thames Valley Fire Control Service cost in the region of £5.4 million to set up, funded by Government grants. The three services project that it will achieve total savings of about £16 million by the end of 2024-25, as well as delivering increased resilience, efficiency and improved performance.

Its technology includes a new mobilising system, which enables control operators to identify the exact geographic location of an incident more quickly and, at the same time, pinpoint the precise position of each available fire appliance and officer.

Every fire appliance across the three services has been fitted or upgraded with the latest mobile data terminals which display incidents on a mapping system, enabling fire crews to see their location and that of the incident in real-time. Mobile data terminals also provide the crews with risk-critical information, such as individual building design and details about any special hazards or unusual processes or manufacturing at a particular location.

To ensure resilience, a non-staffed secondary control room has been created in Kidlington. In the unlikely event that the primary control room fails or needs to be evacuated, North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service will take 999 calls and mobilise resources on behalf of Thames Valley Fire Control Service for the short period of time needed to transfer control staff to Kidlington.  

Jason Thelwell, Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service’s Chief Fire Officer, said: “I would to place on public record my thanks to our control room staff, who have consistently provided an excellent service to the community in the face of tremendous pressures and changes in recent years.”