How new technologies are transforming fire and rescue control rooms

Today’s fire and rescue control rooms are under extraordinary pressure, with control operators and managers having to make lots of quick decisions often under extremely challenging circumstances.

New technologies are already transforming how control rooms and supervisors can operate as effectively as possible, ensuring informed decision-making throughout the process, from the moment a call comes in to major incident management.

What is clear is that, to support sustainable fire services in a climate of high demand and limited resources, control rooms of the future will need to be highly collaborative, making use of technology and shared data to achieve true cohesion between functions.

The effective sharing of data will revolutionise how emergency services develop to ensure they’re fit for the needs for the future. Even if services aren’t physically sharing a single control room, the three blue light services should, ideally, be able to share data quickly using the latest technology.

In addition to sharing of information, there are other technologies which present opportunities to support the work of command and control in fire and rescue services.

There’s a great opportunity to use artificial intelligence (AI) and improve some of that efficiency, for example a very small amount of information about an incident – perhaps a domestic fire in a particular type of dwelling – could be provided.

Using machine learning, technology could determine the level of resource required and facilitate the dispatch of this from the control room.

Predictive analytics can be used to understand where, when and why a particular type of incident is most likely to occur based on the analysis of historical data. In this way patterns can be picked up, perhaps around particular types of building, geographical location, helping to identify where fire brigades need to concentrate their resources, either as preventative work or, in worst case scenarios, to help them manage an incident with particular characteristics.

Considering a move to the cloud with control room technology offers a number of advantages, not least being the opportunity to cut IT costs, particularly where it might suit several fire brigades to share those cloud services. There’s no doubt that being in the cloud makes it much easier to upgrade and implement new technology, and there is support available to help brigades make the move.

Cloud is starting to be considered as a feasible option by fire services, and they’re watching closely to see how other emergency services adopt this approach both in the UK and overseas. In particular, when a powerful control room solution is used in the cloud, it supports where services have chosen to work together in collaborative partnerships where, say, one control room is providing the control room operations for several brigades.

It’s key that any solutions used by fire brigades are able to link into the latest technology, including the new Emergency Services Hub to support the sharing of information, best practice and cooperation. The best technology can facilitate systems ‘to talk to each other’, for example, enabling police forces to see the locations of fire engines and ambulances, sharing information about casualties, firearms presence etc. It’s important to ensure that the technology is able to protect sensitive and restricted information so that only relevant information for each service is shared.

From automation to artificial intelligence, to analytics and the cloud, it’s evident that the technologies needed for the collaborative control room of the future are already available to those fire and rescue services looking to lead the way in service transformation and sustainability.

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