South Yorkshire FRS makes Command Support System the centrepiece of county’s plans for enhancing emergency command arrangements
South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service chose the Command Support System to run its newly upgraded Command Operations Room and to equip its mobile Command Support Unit (CSU). However, the service also has ambitious plans to make the system the centrepiece of technological support for improving and integrating the major incident activities of all of the county’s Local Resilience Forum member agencies (i.e. creating a real-time Common Operational Picture), through the multi-agency emergency command centre (known as South Yorkshire Multi-Agency Gold (SYMAG).
Like many other fire and rescue services in the UK, (and in addition to standard fire-driven objectives), the large scale flooding in summer 2007, and the requirement to ensure command and control systems are ready to deal with terrorist attacks, are driving South Yorkshire FRS’s current modernisation programme – upgrading of command and control systems, acquisition of new mobile command vehicles, and enhancement of interoperable multi-agency command, control and communications facilities.
After careful analysis, the Command Support System was selected as the core technology for the service’s command, control and communications role, with multi-agency integration as a key requirement.
South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service’s Chief Fire Officer Mark Smitherman is clear about the benefits he expects to flow from his service’s adoption of the system: ‘Adopting the Command Support System will substantially enhance the command and control arrangements that support our crews at operational incidents. It also supports our ongoing plans to continually develop our working arrangements with partner agencies, including the police and ambulance services and local authorities, when responding to emergencies.’
The acquisition forms part of a broader programme of work designed to substantially enhance the service’s command support capability. The programme centres around projects to upgrade the technology enabling command support and incident management, set in the context of a new headquarters building providing improved command operations facilities (the Command Operations Room). For support of the multi-agency Local Resilience Forum the Service is upgrading the Training and Development Centre as the South Yorkshire Strategic Coordination Centre (South Yorkshire Multi-Agency Gold – SYMAG).
According to Area Manager Neil Hessell, Head of Technical Services and Special Projects for the service, the South Yorkshire Multi-Agency Gold facility will be progressively developed to provide very closely integrated links with the command and control rooms of all emergency responder members of the Local Resilience Forum (police, ambulance etc), including the four local authorities in the county (Rotherham, Doncaster, Sheffield and Barnsley).
‘The Command Support Unit will have a satellite link that will significantly improve communications from the incident ground to the Command Operations Room at FRS Headquarters and to the SYMAG facility at the Training and Development Centre. The introduction of the Command Support System will provide the Service with enhanced command and control facilities for use at Silver and Gold level incidents whilst also enhancing our arrangements for working with our partner agencies through which we will be able to share a Common Operational Picture.’
Neil Hessell says the introduction of the new system and command centres will involve both a specialist training programme, for staff dedicated to the Command Support Unit, as well as more general training for South Yorkshire FRS operational personnel. “We also have a wide remit to train key individuals from partner agencies, so that they can use the system whilst also understanding what it can provide. The training will be delivered by specific training programmes and also by exercises – both multi-agency and FRS only.
The new Command Support Unit, which incorporates the CSS, is at the heart of the early stages of the project and will be operationally available during June 2009. The Command Operations Room and the SYMAG facility have been in place for some time, although further improvements to the facilities are planned over the next two years.