East Sussex Fire and Rescue accused of ‘failing’ to get to emergencies due to faulty IT

East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service has come under fire from a union
East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service has come under fire from a union

Fire appliances are not being mobilised to life-threatening emergencies because of failing IT software in East Sussex, a union has claimed.

Since the introduction of a new mobilising system at East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service in March there have been dozens of incidents where life-saving resources have not been mobilised immediately or contact with the vehicle has been lost en route to an emergency, according to the Fire Brigades Union (FBU).

The union has warned that emergency control operators are finding the situation intolerable as they cannot identify if and which appliances have been mobilised. Some have threatened to quit the service, said the FBU.

The FBU says the system, known as “4i” was originally slated to go live in December 2013, but had been delayed numerous due to a number of faults.

The union says that this ‘patchy history’ should have been a warning to senior managers.

Last week, the FBU met with chief fire officer Dawn Whittaker and senior managers to demand an immediate joint service/FBU investigation into the failures.

Simon Herbert, chair of the FBU in East Sussex, said: “Not only have we seen the service fail to mobilise appliances to emergencies, the same failing system has also meant up to date risk critical information about an emergency is not available to firefighters.

“This puts them at a severe disadvantage unable to prepare properly for an incident.

“Since the system went live we have seen repeated, catastrophic and potentially life-threatening failures of the service’s mobilisation system.

“Public and firefighter safety is being put at risk. The situation is totally unacceptable; the system is not fit for purpose.”

ESFRS said it has agreed with the FBU to hold a joint investigation into the union’s IT concerns.

Responding, an ESFRS spokesperson said: “We are disappointed that there are a number of inaccuracies in the notice made by the Fire Brigades Union.

“Historically there have been some acknowledged issues with IT at the Service and there is a clear multi-million pound plan for improvement which is being delivered.

“The control room and mobilising systems are part of that future and ongoing investment, and we are actively seeking ways to improve the resilience of our service.

“We will always take the safety of the public and our fire crews very seriously and we remain confident that we can respond to the needs of our community quickly and effectively.”