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FBU warns emergency fire 999 IT failures are putting lives at risk

The Fire Brigades Union has warned IT issues in North West and East Coast emergency fire control rooms are creating dangerous delays in emergency response.

The union has issued five Safety Critical Notices to those fire controls demanding the problems are urgently addressed, as control rooms handle a large rise in storm-related calls.

IT failures can cause a delay of up to eight minutes, impacting the ability of control rooms to mobilise firefighters, fire engines, and other emergency resources to incidents.

Cars stuck in flood water after Storm Ciara hit Credit: ITV Granada

"We've repeatedly warned that these IT failings are dangerous. Our control rooms are desperately understaffed and conditions have become completely untenable.

We cannot keep allowing outdated, malfunctioning IT systems to delay emergency response. It's no secret that, in an emergency, a matter of seconds could be the difference between life and death. These failings could genuinely endanger lives."

– Lynda Rowan-O'Neil, FBU Control Staff national committee

North West Fire Control's 5,000 square mile remit covers a population of 5.5 million people, handling emergency calls for Cheshire, Cumbria, Lancashire and Greater Manchester fire services. It includes Manchester International airport and Sellafield nuclear facility.

Andrew Fox-Hewitt from the Fire Brigades Union says bosses are ignoring their safety concerns:

  • Ged Basson, Senior Operations Manager for North West Fire Control said:

North West Fire Control acknowledges the Fire Brigades Union’s concerns and will continue to work with them, and all representative bodies, to ensure any issues raised are addressed. However, we refute the claim that any mobilisation of emergency resources takes eight minutes.

The public will be aware that last week Storm Ciara had a devastating effect on parts of the UK including the North West of England and we are currently preparing for Storm Dennis. North West Fire Control would like to reassure the public that we are open and operational 24 hours a day, seven days a week and 365 days a year, coordinating emergency responses across the North West of England. We did that effectively for Storm Ciara and will do it for Storm Dennis and will continue to do so in the future.

The public can continue to have every confidence in North West Fire Control.

– Ged Basson, Senior Operations Manager for North West Fire Control