Fire service’s 999 control centre ‘won’t be affected’ if joint agreement terminated

Fire & Rescue East Sussex SUS-150522-132511001
Fire & Rescue East Sussex SUS-150522-132511001

The system handling 999 calls for East Sussex’s fire and rescue service ‘will not be affected’ if a joint agreement is terminated by West Sussex County Council.

A shared Sussex Control Centre has been in operation since May 2014, when the mobilising staff from East and West Sussex moved to a new facility at Haywards Heath.

The centre ran the two legacy systems for East and West providing 999 call handling and fire engine mobilisation across Sussex.

However, in March, East Sussex Fire and Rescue moved to a new 999 control room system, which then encountered problems.

West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service was set to migrate on to the new system a few months later, but this may now no longer take place.

West Sussex County Council has informed East Sussex it wishes to end the commissioned delivery of the control room service and has served notice to initiate the 18-month notice period.

Members of the East Sussex Fire Authority will be meeting to discuss the decision and its implications.

A spokesman for East Sussex Fire and Rescue said: “We can reassure the public that our operations will not be affected. We will continue to answer 999 calls and respond to emergencies as normal.”

West Sussex County Council said while its review of future options for a new system for handling emergency calls was underway the service currently in place at Haywards Heath would continue to operate.

A spokesman said: “We have had a really good working relationship with East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service and look forward to that continuing.”

They added: “The decision taken last week is simply to allow us to put our partners East Sussex Fire and Rescue Authority on notice of our wish to review the plans as they currently provide for a joint arrangement with them.

“Subject to ‘call-in’ on this decision, we will now take a fresh look at options in order to deliver the most efficient and cost effective mobilising system to serve the people of West Sussex. The decision follows an assessment of the proposals for the joint service at the Sussex Control Centre in Haywards Heath.”

In June East Sussex Fire Authority members heard an investigation had found 158 issues with the new Remsdaq 4i mobilising system.

Some of the problems were down to poor wi-fi at fire stations, others were teething problems with the new system, weaknesses in existing systems or could not be blamed on technology.

According to the East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service the system has been used to manage more than 4,500 calls and incidents.

A spokesman added: “The introduction of any new system is carefully monitored and a small number of problems are to be expected.

“We therefore ensure there are back-up processes in place.

“We have resolved a number of reported defects with station-end equipment, the great majority of these issues were not the 4i system directly and affected a small proportion of the total number of mobilisations.

“These issues have been addressed as soon as they came to light and fixes have been put in place.

“Our staff have continued to gain experience with the new system, and have become highly proficient in using it.

“This has further reduced the number of reported errors.

“A joint investigation with the Fire Brigades Union is ongoing and a safety notice from the union was withdrawn several weeks ago.”

In 2017, Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne decided to drop plans to take over fire and rescue services in the county.

James Walsh, Lib Dem group leader at WSCC, warned that any decision to terminate the agreement for the joint control centre would weaken any response to another potential takeover bid.