‘Lives put at risk’ by 999 call move

SHIFTING a fire calls centre to a location some 87 miles from Swindon will put lives at risk, says a seasoned firefighter.

Under Government proposals the Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service control centre in Devizes will shut down and instead emergency calls will be answered in Taunton – some 87 miles from Swindon.

The Fire Brigades Union has attacked the plans, which are part of a national plan to close call centres up and down the country and replace them with nine regional bases, as “an appalling waste of public money”.

But one firefighter in Swindon has gone even further, saying the changes could cost lives.

Joe Tray is the Watch Manager at Swindon Fire Station, and has been a fireman for over three decades.

It is my feeling that these plans could put firefighters in danger,” he said.

If you take an ordinary house fire – the dangers are increasing every second so it’s vital to get there as quickly as possible – and that means good local knowledge.

When people call 999 they are not always in a clear state of mind and it makes the job a lot easier and quicker if the person taking the call knows the area.

It’s also important that if it’s necessary to call reinforcements that the control centre know which crews would be nearest.

The information we get from the control room and Devizes is second to none.

And I think that is down to invaluable local knowledge.

How often do we see hiccups with these big-scale schemes?

You can’t afford a hiccup when you are playing with people’s lives.”

Joe said the move would also lead to job losses among the 21 controllers based in Devizes.

He said: “The government has targets to increase the number of jobs for women, but here is a staff which is made up of mainly women whose jobs are at risk.”

Joe also criticised the money being spent on the scheme.

He said: “It’s just five years since the control staff moved to a purpose-built building that the taxpayer paid for.

Now we are told that they are moving again, at more expense.”

Clive Kemp, the regional project director for the South West, has previously promised that 21st century communications systems would be used at the new centre and these would “increase resilience and safety across the region”.

From the Swindon Evening Advertiser

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