Total mobilisation with one touch

Published:  01 September, 2008

Fire brigades are increasingly installing reliable tertiary systems to issue turn out messages and other vital communications.

Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue, which is predominantly made up of retained firefighters, has installed a “Message Buttons” system designed by UK company Autopage.
The tertiary mobilisation system is used when primary and secondary command and control systems fail.

The system consists of a number of “buttons” (coloured boxes) on a computer screen (up to 108), each representing pre-set messages and groups of recipients within a station. As well as alerting firefighter crews via messages to their pagers or mobile phones, the functions of the buttons can remotely control appliance bay doors, station lights etc.

A button can also function as an ISDN reset button, which enables the remote resetting of systems that have been affected by a thunder or electrical fault. “After a thunderstorm we might have to reset three or four station manually and someone from the communications department would have to drive to each station to flick the power switch. Now we do it with the touch of a button from our desks,” said Oxfordshire FRS technical communications officer Peter MacKay.

North Yorkshire Fire Brigade were so impressed by Oxford’s use of the system that they have installed an Autopage Buttons system this year.

Derbyshire Fire & Rescue has installed a system that automatically relays pre-set messages to officers and groups, or relays alert signs. “Previously we used a radio bearer system and all calls had to be activated manually by our control centre staff. They had to physically tap in a code. Now with Autopage, all calls for our officers come into central control and are automatically transferred out,” commented Group Fire Control Officer John Farndon. Messages are relayed under a minute to staff with both pagers and phones – including officers’ personal mobile phones. “We can get hold of our officers now, even when they are off-patch!” added Farndon.

Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service – the second largest in the UK, covering a population of 2.4 million – has had an Autopage mobile messaging system since 1997 both for operational use and back up.

The messages range form information about specific incidents to instructions to attend and are used with officers whose chosen method of contact is mobile phone.
“We have a stand-alone computer which runs Autopage. It is set up in our standby centre to which operations would be evacuated if an emergency affected main control,” said Greater Manchester FRS Communications Manager Ian Parry.

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