Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service Control is staffed 24 hours a day 365 days a year by 4 watches, Red, Blue, Green and White. Control has a Control Room Manager and each watch consists of a Watch Manager Control, Crew Manager Control and Fire Fighter Control Operators.
The majority of Control staff work:
2 day shifts – 09.00 – 18.00
2 night shifts – 18.00 – 09.00
4 rota days.
There are some Control staff who work other shift patterns.
The role of the Firefighter Control Operator is to accept emergency calls, obtain as much information as possible about the incident in order to identify and despatch the nearest possible appliance to the incident. Different incident types will require the attendance of different types of appliance, so the operator is required to maintain their knowledge of Brigade policies and procedures in order to perform this correctly.
For each incident, the operator will also need to inform officers, other emergency agencies, utilities or other services such as the RSPCA, as required by the incident. They will also mobilise any further appliances and meet requests from the Fireground during a developing incident.
Control is a central point of contact with all NRFS staff. As well as dealing with emergency calls they deal with recording equipment and mechanical faults and passing to fleet or workshops; out of hours switchboard for the public dealing with general enquires; updating the media summaries after every incident and keeping the press informed of substantial incidents; Control record all Health and Safety events and pass to Health and Safety department and inform the relevant personnel; they hold information on all the High Risk sites within Norfolk county; they hold all Emergency Plans; Control also have chemical manuals which assist Hazmat Officers for chemical incidents; they continually monitor and manage fire cover across Norfolk. Control also deal with Home Fire Risk Check (HFRC) enquiries and arrange for HFRCs to take place for the county of Norfolk.
Control are extremely resilient with a number of fallback equipment and procedures in case of an emergency within the Control complex. One of our fallback procedures is our partnership with Hertfordshire Fire and Rescue Service. Norfolk and Hertfordshire work in partnership by assisting each other with call handling when the opposite brigade are experiencing high volumes of emergency calls. There is also provision for the opposite brigade to take full control of receiving emergency calls and mobilising appropriate resources in the opposite county, this would be used in extreme circumstances.
Norfolk Control are currently working towards an East Coast Collaboration with Lincolnshire, Humberside and Hertfordshire, which will provide extra resilience for handling emergency calls for all counties by operating on the same mobilising system..
Fire cover = when there are incidents ongoing, Control will monitor the county and, when necessary, move fire appliances to make sure there is a fire appliance available to all of the county at all times.
Emergency Plans = These are restricted documents which only Control and specialist officers have access to which will assist with large scale emergencies.
Fall back = can be as simple as if there is an equipment failure, such as a phone breaks, there are spare phones to replace them. If there is a fire in the Control room, your emergency calls still need to be answered, the Control staff are specially trained to evacuate the Control room and divert all emergency telephone lines to specialist phones whilst they travel to their fall back Control room and have the ability to mobilise the fire appliances and accurately record all the details of the incident. The same mobilising equipment is located here to ensure Control deliver their high standard to the county.
The mobilising system used by Control is called Vision 3 and is supplied by Capita.
The system incorporates Automatic Vehicle Location (AVL), and calculates how far the nearest appliance is, in minutes, from the incident, which enables the Control staff to mobilise the nearest possible appliance and so provide a better service to the population of Norfolk.
Most of the Fire appliances in the fleet are fitted with Mobile Data Terminals (MDT). Mobilising instructions can be transmitted directly to the vehicle required in a data format. The crews can also access information from their mobile data terminals such as the location of water hydrants, mapping information and information on high risk premises.
Data messages can be exchanged between the vehicle and Control, which helps eliminate problems caused by radio interference and ensures that messages are received correctly.
Jobs in Control are highly sought after, with turnover of Control staff generally low.