Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Invest in SMART Technology

Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service (CFRS) are responsible for delivering a fire and rescue service to the 820,000 people of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough. The Service’s headquarters is based in Huntingdon and houses the senior management team, Combined Fire Control, central operational teams and many of its support staff, who work in a variety of roles to support frontline activity.

Its vision is to ensure a safe community, where there are no preventable deaths or injuries in fires or other emergencies, by putting people at the centre of everything it does. To help achieve this, CFRS regularly reviews its operational processes to ensure it is working at maximum efficiency.

As part of this process, CFRS reviewed its Major Incident Control Area (MICA) as part of a wider command and control project. It was decided that a more modern and practical approach to incident command management was required, and ultimately introduce a process that was more conducive to the way in which fire service managers operate with other agencies in an emergency situation.

The MICA has a dual purpose. When not in use for incident control it is used for day to day business functions. The review was therefore mindful of the implications it would have on the overall use of the room, and were keen to ensure it was easy to use and provided an effective and functional method of delivering information across a broad range of subject matter.

CFRS had been using earlier versions of the SMART Board interactive whiteboard technology for a number of years and wanted to investigate whether the latest versions would provide them with the additional functionality they required. After visiting Steljes’ solutions briefing centre in Bagshot, it was agreed they needed to upgrade to the latest solutions. The MICA was set up with mobile versions of SMART Meeting Pro™ software and SMART Bridgit® conferencing software and equipped with a large 87” SMART Board interactive whiteboard and two 55” SMART Board interactive flat panels.

Station Commander Simon Newton said: “One of the major problems facing any emergency service is the need for an accurate picture of what’s happening at an incident to aid them in the decision making process when incidents occur as time is of the essence. “We need to react to the changing nature of an incident so we need accurate real-time information from both internal and multi-agency sources to help validate what is happening. Our vision is that our SMART Board capability will enable us to use information from multiple sources to provide valuable insights will help us make better informed decisions and ultimately save lives.”

CFRS decided to put the SMART solution to the test during a planned Local Resilience Training exercise at a shopping centre, approximately 25 miles away from its headquarters. During the exercise, the Silver Command team were able to keep a clear record of decisions that were being made, send and receive messages, data, pictures and video directly from the scene of operations. All this information was used to create an accurate common operating picture.

The information was gathered using the power of the Bridgit software which was loaded onto the iPads of the members of the Silver Command team. This enabled information to be sent directly to Gold Command giving them the real-time data they need to make decisions. All information gathered on the SMART Boards was recorded and saved so that it could be easily used as part of a debrief following the incident if required.

Watch Commander Dan Martin, who was part of the Silver Command Team that took part in the planned exercise, explained: “The SMART Board interactive whiteboards together with SMART Meeting Pro and SMART Bridgit conference software provided a faster build-up of what was happening at the incident, enabling a great understanding of the various elements of the incident. Working from our HQ, Gold command could easily view and annotate over the same information as Silver Command who were positioned at the incident itself. This is the first time we have been able to do this and it resulted in faster decision making, leading to more effective containment of the incident. Even though this was a planned exercise, it proved that using the SMART solution would provide us with the improvements in operational efficiency that we are seeking.”

Martin Large, CEO of Steljes commented “Traditionally command and control centres for the emergency services have been seen as a specialist niche market but it is well worth taking a second look at this market place. For emergency services the extent and impact of their organisational efficiency directly correlates with their ability to save lives. Building up an accurate common operational picture of an incident is difficult due to the changing nature of an incident. Therefore the ability of their command and control centres to gather information their Bronze and Silver Commands is vital for decision making. And that means equipping their employees with the latest telecoms and interactive technologies to enable them to effective communicate with their command and control centres. Cambridge Fire and Rescue for instance tried out how effective SMART Board interactive whiteboards would be when they put them to the test during a planned Local Resilience Training exercise at a shopping centre, approximately 25 miles away from its headquarters. Following the success of the exercise, SMART boards have now been installed in every fire station in the county.”

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David Dungay

Editor - Comms Business Magazine