Chaos at Surrey fire service as I.T. systems fail

Vital I.T. systems have crashed at Surrey Fire Emergency Control forcing operators to use pen and paper in order to take details of emergency incidents and mobilise fire engines. The Surrey County Council I.T. system crashed at 17:39 on Monday evening (17 July).

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) says the I.T. failures could lead to serious delays in firefighters arriving at the scene of emergencies.

Lee Belsten, secretary of the FBU in Surrey, said: “When systems go down, control operators have to resort to using pen and paper to log 999 calls, then mobilise each fire appliance using an antiquated and slower method to mobilise them.

“It also means fire crews who respond to the incident are left without the information and detail they would normally expect to have. This is dangerous for the firefighters as well as for the public.”

The I.T. failure also affects the Automatic Vehicle Location System which, the unions say, means the nearest fire engine to an incident may not necessarily be mobilised, causing further delays.  

Since 2010, Surrey Emergency Control has seen a 35% cut in staff leaving just three control operators on duty. This means staff are overstretched, stressed and at times unable to handle 999 calls. The FBU says this is dangerous, short sighted and increases the risk to the public.

Last week, during the fires at Weybridge Community Hospital and Ockham Farm, calls had to be redirected to the Merseyside Control Room.

Mr Belsten added: “With every passing day Surrey County Council show they are not capable of governing a fire and rescue service that is fit for purpose in the 21st century.”

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