Fire Service threat to move out of county (Berkshire)

The future of Berkshire’s fire control centre in Tilehurst is on the brink, according to the Reading Chronicle.

Two weeks after ambulance bosses announced plans to move their control centre out of the county, Berkshire’s emergency services were dealt another blow when it was revealed fire chiefs want to close Dee Road control room and take it to a regional centre in Surrey.

Unions say vital local knowledge will be lost and Sharon Riley, Fire Brigades Union (FBU) executive member and a Berkshire control operator, said: “Local knowledge is becoming more, not less important in dealing with emergency calls to the fire service, with rapidly changing methods of making telephone calls increasingly exposing the weaknesses in automated caller location technology.”

But Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service chief officer, Olaf Baars, said:

Our senior managers are currently investigating the viability of transferring our control centre operations to another fire and rescue service. Surrey appears to be the most likely possibility at this stage, as they have recently upgraded their own facility. However, no firm decision has been made at this time and consultation is currently taking place with staff.”

The last Government was planning to replace individual fire service HQs with nine regional control centres. The Tories and Lib Dems opposed it then, but the new Coalition Government has not scrapped the idea and will make a decision on its future later this year.

Laura Fellows, of the FBU, said on Tuesday:

Firefighters and control members in the Royal Berkshire Fire Control Centre wish to express their disappointment and concern at hearing this news. Furthermore, we are also alarmed by the comments made by Mr Baars, and Dr Paul Bryant, chairman of the fire authority, in recent interviews.

“Both of them have made statements which expose a lack of comprehension of the limitations of caller location technology and the importance of local knowledge in dealing with emergency 999 calls to the fire service. The role, knowledge, professionalism and exemplary level of service delivered by firefighters and control in Berkshire is integral to the safety of the public and firefighters.”

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