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Avon Fire and Rescue Service’s IT system ‘crashes during 999 calls’

avon-fire-and-rescue-service’s-it-system-‘crashes-during-999-calls’
Avon Fire and Rescue Service’s IT system ‘crashes during 999 calls’

Fire engine

Image caption,

Avon Fire and Rescue Service has until 19 September to develop an action plan

By Rachel Candlin

BBC News

IT systems at Avon Fire and Rescue Service are potentially putting the public at risk, an inspector has said.

An inspection found the services’ mobilisation system is “unreliable and crashes” during 999 calls, which can slow down the response.

The service is also not effectively gathering and recording up-to-date information to help protect the public and fire crews in an emergency.

Avon FRS said it will ensure any recommendations are implemented.

His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS) said the issues “must be urgently addressed” and the service has until 19 September to develop an action plan.

After making limited progress since an inspection in 2021, when a number of recommendations were made, the service has been issued with two causes of concern.

Image caption,

Avon Fire and Rescue Service is the first in the country to be issued with an accelerated cause of concern

HMICFRS said it was not confident that all buildings and places of risk had been identified, and that some firefighters were gathering risk information with no training or quality assurance processes in place.

It also found ongoing issues with the mobilisation system during 999 calls, including system crashes, causing slower responses to emergencies.

HMICFRS issues causes of concern when it identifies a serious, critical or systemic shortcoming in a service’s practice, policy or performance.

This process can be accelerated when a fire and rescue service’s failures raise concerns about public safety – as is the case with Avon FRS.

The service is the first fire and rescue service in the country to be issued with an accelerated cause of concern.

Image source, Criminal Justice Inspectorates

Image caption,

Inspector Wendy Williams said the watchdog will work with the service to monitor progress

Inspector Wendy Williams said: “Despite demonstrating some improvements over the years since our inspections began, the shortcomings our recent inspection found in Avon Fire and Rescue Service are so serious that they are a potential risk to public safety.

“It is unacceptable to have a 999 emergency response system which is unreliable and crashes during calls. This means the service is delayed in responding to emergencies in moments of most need.

“Ensuring Avon Fire and Rescue Service can effectively gather and record relevant and up-to-date risk information is crucial to protect firefighters, the public and property during an emergency.

“I will be closely monitoring the service’s performance to make sure that public safety comes first.”

‘Disappointed’

Avon FRS Chief Fire Officer, Simon Shilton, said: “I am disappointed the inspection has raised two accelerated causes of concern, despite the extensive programmes of work in place across the organisation.

“The mobilisation system is supplied by a third-party provider, utilised by 80% of UK fire and rescue services, and who we’re working closely with, to ensure extensive mitigation is in place to rectify the situation.

“We will work closely with HMICFRS to ensure the recommendations are implemented and will share our progress publicly on our website.”

HMICFRS said it will monitor Avon Fire and Rescue Service’s progress against its recommendations and will publish its full report in due course.

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