International Control Room Week (October 24-30) is a unique opportunity to showcase the department that is hailed as the ‘cog’ of Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service.
Our 16 Control Room staff are based at the Fire Control Room above the Command Development Centre that neighbours Daventry Fire Station, and have been for the last nine years since moving from Moulton. There are four members for each of the four Watches – Red, Green, Blue and White.
“It’s a lot more than answering the phones to members of the public,” explains Scott Hirons, who manages the Control Room team as well as being Station Manager at Daventry.
“The Control Room is the cog for the Fire Service as we wouldn’t turn out to any incidents without them. They gather all the information which allows us to pinpoint what incident type we will be attending, and that then allows us to supply the right resources for that incident.”
Upon receiving a 999 call from a member of the public, one of the members of the Watch on duty will allocate appliances, officers and crews from more than 130 different incident types. These range from house fires to road traffic collisions, animal rescues or floods. They will also gather information from the person who has called up and offer any lifesaving advice and guidance, and a cool head is needed as the callers can often be witnessing distressing scenes.
A member of the Control Room will then effectively act as the Incident Commander until an engine, or an officer, arrives at the incident. They will then support until the end by logging decisions, relaying information and essentially connecting everyone attending the incident together.
One of the members of the Control Room team is Nicky Evans, who is on Blue Watch. She says: “I enjoy working for the local Service and working on behalf of the community – it gives you a real sense of job satisfaction knowing that you have helped someone.”
It’s not just 999 calls though, as the Control Room team help other departments out of hours and will complete administrative work for the Service. They will also occasionally take calls from other parts of the country. The Control Room team in Northamptonshire partners with Warwickshire so that one acts as back-up for the other if they have an overflow of calls.
During the summer they also took calls from services including London Fire Brigade as part of Operation Willow Beck, which redistributes national 999 calls into Fire and Rescue Service Control rooms across the country during times of significant demand.
The hard work and tenacity of the Control Room staff during this summer’s heatwave culminated in a Commendation from the Chief Fire Officer to the whole department at the recent NFRS Annual Awards ceremony.
To put this into context, in the week commencing August 7 the Control Room took 802 calls and assigned crews to 328 different incidents. That compares to 248 calls and 204 incidents in the same week 12 months earlier in 2021.
Scott Hirons said: “We took a record number of calls, and it did feel non-stop for a long period of time. But the Control Room team were absolutely amazing, and I can’t praise all the staff here enough. They were overwhelmed but they decided to work extra hours instead of going home, and we didn’t ask them to do that. But they did it because they are proud of what they do, and they wanted to support their colleagues.”
He added: “The public will never see them as they are never on the incident ground. So you could say they are the unseen people of the Fire Service, but they are fundamental to everything we do. We are very proud of them, and we cherish everything they do.”