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999eye emergency smartphone system in action

West Midlands Fire Brigade has issued an update on 999eye and how members of the public have been using it.

At the end of last year, Capita, in collaboration with West Midlands Fire Service, launched a world-first solution which allows emergency control rooms to be at the heart of unfolding incidents by viewing live footage streamed from eye witnesses at the scene. 999eye is the first-ever smartphone solution that enables 999 callers, with compatible mobile devices, to securely send live footage or images of incidents to emergency service control rooms. West Midlands Fire Service piloted the app before going fully live just over a month ago.

It works by sending, with the 999 caller’s permission, a text message to their smartphone containing a URL. Once clicked, a one-use-only live stream is established that allows footage or images to be sent directly to the control room. GPS coordinates are also delivered, helping to pinpoint the exact location of an incident.

In the first month, 50 members of the public used 999eye to send images of ongoing emergencies to West Midlands Fire Service.

It is helping operators in Staffordshire and West Midlands Fire Control ensure that the most appropriate resources are sent to incidents. This could mean, for serious incidents, sending more fire engines with crews of five firefighters. Or, for more minor incidents, a Brigade Response Vehicle (BRV) with a crew of three could be sent instead of a fully-crewed engine.

People in need of help still call 999 as normal, and there is no change to how firefighters are then mobilised based on the information given.

West Midlands firefighters aim to reach emergencies in which people or buildings are in danger in just five minutes, but the current average is even quicker at 4 minutes and 44 seconds. Responding to incidents safely, quickly and assertively is key to reducing casualties and damage to homes, businesses and other property.

999eye has been used in a variety of situations, including:

  • a building fire in Bilston, requiring 10 firefighters and two fire engines
  • a car fire in Yardley, Birmingham - a relatively small fire to which three firefighters and a BRV were sent
  • dumped rubbish and electrical appliances on fire in Parkfield, Wolverhampton - one BRV and one fire engine sent
  • the early identification of chemicals - a photo of a container involved in an incident meant that our specialist hazardous materials team could offer early advice remotely and didn’t need to attend, saving vital travel time and keeping the team available for other calls.

We’re extremely proud to have worked with Capita on 999eye. We believe we’re the first fire and rescue service in the world to use such technology. People who need our help should still call 999 and tell us what’s happening in the usual way. We’ll then mobilise firefighters like we always have and they’ll aim to arrive in just five minutes if life or property is at risk. 999eye now gives us the added capability to confirm that we’re sending the most appropriate level and type of resources. It shouldn’t be long before we’re able to relay the images direct to the fire crews as they’re on their way, so they can be even better prepared when they arrive.

Eddie Sammons

Watch commander of West Midlands Fire Service’s (WMFS) Research, Development, Technology and Innovation team

“The team at Capita is delighted to have been involved in the development of this service in conjunction with WMFS and to be hosting it.

999eye has already allowed the control room staff to re-assess if the initial response is appropriate, deliver further information to responding crews or, as in the case of a potential chemical incident, assess that no resource needed to be sent. All of this thanks to the ability to have remote eyes on scene.

The solution is secure, simple to use and of immense value to all blue light organisations. 999eye has already won the BAPCO 2017 conference ‘Product Innovation Award’ for the product that has the greatest impact on public safety communications.” Chris Jones, CEO, Capita PageOne

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