A WORLD-FIRST app is set to revolutionise the way the public contact emergency services.
West Midlands Fire Service (WMFS) has conceived and developed an app called 999Eye in collaboration with Capita – and is believed to be the first solution of its kind.
Since its launch one month ago, 50 members of the public have used the smartphone system to send images of ongoing emergencies.
The system helps operators in Staffordshire and West Midlands Fire Control to ensure the most appropriate resources are sent to incidents.
For major incidents, more fire engines with crews of five firefighters may be required, while a Brigade Response Vehicle (BRV) with a crew of three could be sent in place of fully-crewed engines for less serious incidents.
People in need of help can still call 999 as normal, and there is no change to how firefighters are then mobilised based on the information given.
West Midlands firefighters aim to reach emergencies in which people or buildings are in danger in five minutes – but the current average is even quicker at four minutes and 44 seconds.
Responding to incidents safely, quickly and assertively is key to reducing casualties and damage to homes, businesses and other properties.
The smartphone system gives fire control staff the option to send a secure link to a 999 caller via a text message, once initial resources have been dispatched.
The caller clicks on the link which opens a one-use-only connection between their device’s camera and fire control – with the option to take and send photos and live stream video.
GPS coordinates are also delivered, helping to pinpoint the exact location of an incident.
The system has been used during a car fire in Yardley, a building fire in Bilston and dumped rubbish and electrical appliances on fire in Parkfield.
A photo of a container involved in an incident meant that WMFS’s specialist hazardous materials team could offer early advice without having to attend the scene – saving vital travel time and keeping the team available for other calls.
Watch commander Eddie Sammons said the team is extremely proud to have worked with Capita on 999Eye.
She added: “999Eye now gives us the added capability to confirm that we’re sending the most appropriate level and type of resources.
“It shouldn’t be long before we’re able to relay the images direct to the fire crews as they’re on their way, so they can be even better prepared when they arrive.
“People who need our help should still call 999 and tell us what’s happening in the usual way – we’ll then mobilise firefighters like we always have and they’ll aim to arrive in just five minutes if life or property is at risk.”
Raymond Fegan, national sales manager at PageOne, part of Capita PLC, said: “The team at Capita is delighted to have been involved in the development of this service in conjunction with WMFS and to be hosting it.
“999Eye has already allowed the control room staff to re-assess if the initial response is appropriate, deliver further information to responding crews or, as in the case of a potential chemical incident, assess that no resource needed to be sent. “All of this is thanks to the ability to have remote eyes on scene, avoiding responding resources being deployed.
“The solution is secure, simple to use and of immense value to all blue light organisations.”
He added the system has won the BAPCO 2017 conference Product Innovation Award for the product creating the greatest impact on public safety communications.