The Fire Brigade Union fears call centre software may not be have been fully tested as a fire station in Carlisle East in Cumbria received a print-out to a rescue call more than 100 miles away near Bolton, Lancashire by a new control centre based in Warrington, Cheshire.
The Regional Control Centre is the hub for 999 fire calls for Cheshire, Cumbria, Greater Manchester and Lancashire. FBU officials fear this latest mix-up, which is one of many over the past few months could potentially cost a life. Such is their concerns, the FBU have taken their concerns to one of the county’s MPs, who has called for an investigation.
The FBU’s Brigade Chairman in Cumbria Dave Burn said: “The crew at Carlisle East station questioned the mobilisation with fire control and the operators there. It was resolved without them having to go to Bolton.”
Mr Burn put the blame for this mistake down to software used in the control room, which he does not believe has been thoroughly tested. “Control operators are doing their very best but the technology is failing them; it hasn’t been fully tried and tested. We have union members in the control room and they are in an uncomfortable position”
Westmorland MP Tim Farron has confirmed he will write to the Secretary of State for Communities, Eric Pickles to review the situation. He said “This project has been called a ‘white elephant’ and it really is. How can we expect someone in Warrington to know the difference between Staveley-in-Westmorland and Staveley-in-Cartmel when someone calls in distress? I hope that Eric Pickles will urgently look at this new evidence and agree to a review of the situation.”
A spokesperson for the Regional Fire Control Centre defended the set-up. He said: “The new North West Fire Control service has been successfully taking calls and mobilising fire engines and officers across Cheshire, Cumbria, Lancashire and Greater Manchester for over three months. During that time operators have shown great professionalism and dedication in dealing with more than 15,000 calls, including some major emergencies.
The spokesperson said the control room staff has had to work alongside officers in mobilising reduced numbers of fire engines to emergencies during the ongoing series of national strikes by the Fire Brigades Union.
The spokesman added: “We have investigated the alleged incident in Carlisle and can confirm that no fire engine was sent from Carlisle East to attend an incident at the Rivington Reservoir in Lancashire. The incident in question was a water rescue that was successfully dealt with by Lancashire crews who were mobilised straightaway. The confusion seems to surround a printout message sent in error to Carlisle East however, this was immediately recognised as a mistake and no resource was ever mobilised.”