New fire service mobilising system putting lives at risk

Fire appliances are not being mobilised to life-threatening emergencies because of failing I.T. software in East Sussex, it can be revealed. 

Since the introduction of a new mobilising system at East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service in March there have been dozens of incidents where life-saving resources have not been mobilised immediately or contact with the vehicle has been lost en route to an emergency, the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has said. 

The union has warned that emergency control operators are finding the situation intolerable as they cannot identify if and which appliances have been mobilised. Some have threatened to quit the service.

Originally slated to go live in December 2013, the new mobilising system has had numerous faults and its target delivery date has been missed numerous times. The union says that its patchy history should have been a warning to senior managers at the service who should never have let it go live. 

Last week, the FBU met with chief fire officer Dawn Whittaker and senior managers to demand an immediate joint service/FBU investigation into the failures. To date, the service has failed to investigate the issue. 

Simon Herbert, chair 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.”

Richard Jones, the FBU executive council member for the South East, said: “The mobilisation system was originally meant to serve both East Sussex and West Sussex fire and rescues services. Five years later, it is only active in one service and experiencing potentially lethal faults. How long will the fire services in East and West Sussex continue to flog this dead horse?”

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