GPS arrival time “miscount”

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Thursday, September 17th, 2020 8:00pm

By Alex Moore - Local Democracy Reporter

“Technical issues” with GPS equipment and the central control system are contributing to a rise in the number of fire engines logged as missing an arrival time target, brigade officers say.

Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service’s 2020-21 performance goals include attending emergencies with at least four firefighters within 15 minutes on 89 per cent of occasions.

In a report for the governing body, Chief Fire Officer Rod Hammerton and interim Assistant CFO Simon Hardiman write that the brigade is behind that target, with the rate peaking at 88 per cent in June then falling to 80 per cent last month.

They write that a recent upgrade is leading to a “delay in response times showing on the system” and “in reality, the number of failures was lower”, with crews’ verbal updates confirming arrival within the quarter-hour.

In a report, due to be discussed by fire authority members next week, Officer Hammerton and Officer Hardiman say the 15-minute target was achieved 84.1 per cent of the time last year. This included “two periods of flooding within the county, culminating in major incident declarations and periods of high demand for our assistance and assets”, they add.

Between April and September this year that rate has been 84.8 per cent.

“Further work has been undertaken to understand the apparent reduction in performance in August,” Officer Hammerton and Officer Hardiman write.

“The work identified that a recent upgrade of the Command and Control system within Fire Control caused technical issues with automatic status updates.

“A further technical issue has been identified through the provider of mobile GPS equipment, and work has been undertaken throughout August to rectify the issues.

“This would have impacted upon the data transfer from appliances to Command and Control, leading to a delay in response times showing on the system.

“In reality the number of failures was lower, and crews would have utilised verbal updates via radio as opposed to the mobile data terminal.”

Officer Hammerton and Officer Hardiman add that “this target remains a challenge”, especially as rural incidents have increased three percent in five years, extending the average response time from eight minutes in 2015 to eight minutes and 43 seconds in 2019. This is still below the English average, they add.

The arrival time target is one of seven firefighting performance targets imposed on the brigade by the Shropshire and Wrekin Fire and Rescue Authority.

The others concern reducing the number of deaths and injuries, limiting the number accidental and deliberate fires and containing indoor fires to their room of origin. The report notes that, at the half-way point in the year, Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service is on course to achieve all of these.

Shropshire and Wrekin Fire and Rescue Authority’s Standards, Audit and Performance Committee is due to discuss the report when it meets remotely on Thursday, September 24.

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