Firefighters raise fears over 'failing' IT system

ESFRS news
ESFRS news

A firefighters's union has raised serious fears over the use of a ‘failing’ IT system in East Sussex, claiming it has meant crews have been delayed when heading to life-threatening emergencies.

According to the Fire Brigades Union (FBU), there have been ‘dozens of incidents’ where fire crews have either been delayed or had contact cut while en route to emergencies as a result of a new mobilising system, which was introduced to East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service (ESFRS) last March.

The union says that emergency control operators are ‘finding the situation intolerable’ as they cannot identify if appliances have been mobilised to emergencies and that some have threatened to quit the service as a result of the problems.

ESFRS disputes the FBU claims, saying that the system is performing well with the exception of ‘a small number of issues’ relating to ‘additional systems’.

An ESFRS spokesman said: “We are disappointed that there are a number of inaccuracies in the notice made by the Fire Brigades Union.

“Historically there have been some acknowledged issues with IT at the service and there is a clear multi-million pound plan for improvement which is being delivered. The control room and mobilising systems are part of that future and ongoing investment, and we are actively seeking ways to improve the resilience of our service.

“We will always take the safety of the public and our fire crews very seriously and we remain confident that we can respond to the needs of our community quickly and effectively.”

ESFRS also confirmed that it has agreed with the FBU to hold a joint investigation into the union’s IT concerns.

The FBU says the system, known as “4i” was originally slated to go live in December 2013, but had been delayed numerous times due to a number of faults. The union says that this ‘patchy history’ should have been a warning to senior managers.

Simon Herbert, chairman of the FBU in East Sussex, said: “Not only have we seen the service fail to mobilise appliances to emergencies, the same failing system has also meant up to date risk critical information about an emergency is not available to firefighters.

"This puts them at a severe disadvantage unable to prepare properly for an incident. Since the system went live we have seen repeated, catastrophic and potentially life-threatening failures of the service’s mobilisation system. Public and firefighter safety is being put at risk. The situation is totally unacceptable; the system is not fit for purpose.”