Control Rooms

The removal of historical brigade boundaries allows the creation of a more efficient, effective and resilient approach to providing fire and rescue services to the communities of Scotland. A key component of this will be reducing duplication where we find it and meeting the tight fiscal demands facing the Service.

On 26 September 2013, the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) Board agreed, as part of wider Strategic Intent proposals to rationalise the inherited property estate of the SFRS, to reduce the number of Fire Controls in Scotland from eight to three.

The Strategic Intent document outlines how the service intends to create an infrastructure to support the single Scottish Fire and Rescue Service by removing duplication from the existing infrastructure which was designed to support eight services. Creating this infrastructure realises an £18m capital receipt which may be used to invest in the new infrastructure and at the same time annual resource savings from property of £4.7m thus supporting our disposal and investment strategy.

Following the meeting of the Board in November, it agreed that the Control room in Johnstone will be retained and the Control rooms in Dumfries, Maddiston and Thornton will close.

The Board decided to defer the location of the second and third Control rooms until further information was provided to allow them to make their decision.

A paper will be submitted to the Board meeting on 30 January which explores all available options to ensure a robust long-term solution is successfully delivered for the SFRS’s Control, minimising risks to business as usual and properly reflecting the views of staff. 

We have provided some further information in a question and answer style below.

Why is the number of Control rooms in Scotland being reduced?

Johnstone Control currently handles over 50% of overall incidents. With the current financial climate demanding significant efficiency savings, an improved service and reduction of duplication, the existing position of the seven remaining Controls sharing an activity workload in the region of 100-130 incidents in a typical 24-hour period, is not an efficient use of resources.  This is not sustainable or desirable in the current financial climate.

Activity levels have reduced substantially over recent years because of greater focus and substantial investment in community safety prevention and education activities, which have reduced house fires in Scotland to the lowest levels since records began and fire deaths to a ten-year low. 

The volume of calls now received to Fire Controls in Scotland could safely be handled by a much smaller number of Controls, the only rationale for eight Controls was the existence of the previous eight fire and rescue services.

When was the decision made to reduce Control rooms from eight to three?

On 26 September 2013, the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) Board agreed, as part of wider Strategic Intent proposals to rationalise the inherited property estate of the SFRS, to reduce the number of Fire Controls in Scotland from eight to three.

The Board agreed that the Control room in Johnstone will be retained due to its size and current workload and the Control Rooms in Dumfries, Maddiston and Thornton will close. The decision regarding the location of the second and third Control rooms, whether Edinburgh, Dundee, Aberdeen or Inverness was deferred until further information was provided to the Board.

What options are being submitted to the Board?

Six potential options have been considered using appropriate criteria, assessment of risk and scoring matrix. The options submitted to the Board can be found in the Board paper. Click here to view: Fire Control Options Appraisal Report

How have these options been decided upon?

All six options have been individually assessed against financial and non-financial criteria. Both financial and non-financial categories have been weighted with the combination of both forming the basis of the recommendation.   

Were representative bodies included in the work to identify the six suitable options?

In November, the SFRS Board endorsed a Working Together Framework, formalising the ethos of partnership working with Trade Unions. A partnership working group was established between officers and Fire Brigades Union officials to consider the options available in terms of Control Rooms in support of the final decision at the January 2014 Board meeting.

When will the Board make the decision?

The Board will be meeting to discuss the options paper on Thursday, 30th January at 11am in Dundee. The decision made at this meeting will be issued to the public on our website and through the press as soon as is practicably possible.

Once the decision is made, when will the changes to Control take place?

It is anticipated that it will take between three and five years to implement any of the options submitted to the Board.

Were shared services with other emergency service organisations considered as a possibility?

The SFRS Board previously agreed in June that the option of a shared service venture at the time of significant transition, whilst being desirable, added additional risk and complexity. Shared services discussions are ongoing to explore all future options and to assist in delivering improved outcomes, however, with regard to the future of control rooms, complexity, timescales and risk means that this option does not meet the needs of any organisation at this time.

What are the benefits of the proposed changes?

The plan will remove the duplication of property assets and support the creation of an appropriate, single infrastructure to support the new national service.

Reducing the number of Fire Controls in Scotland will also bring benefits both for our professional Control room staff who perform a vital role in delivering community and firefighter safety, and the public who rely on us to provide an emergency response to a range of life-threatening incidents where the Service has a critical role in delivering a co-ordinated response to protect life and property.

Three Control rooms will improve safety and resilience through a number of enhanced features and each will be capable of taking all 999 fire calls in Scotland.  With full interoperability, highly trained staff using the latest modern technology and wider exposure and therefore experience of the full range of incidents the Service is likely to attend, this move will improve our operational response. The Service will devise detailed implementation plans to ensure a safe, carefully managed transition to a reduced number of Controls.

Do the proposals enable effective service delivery?

A single technical platform delivered through three Controls will provide full interoperability and ensure the most appropriate resources can be mobilised across the whole of Scotland, improving the safety of communities and firefighters alike. This will ensure equitable access to intervention resources and support across the country.

Should Control staff members not have local knowledge?

Efficient call handling is not dependent on local knowledge. The Service is fully aware that geography and demography of Scotland can raise some particular issues for mobilisation and incident control, and has current procedures in place to address these issues. The Service utilises caller line identity software and sophisticated mobilising systems to assist our professionally trained Control staff.

Will there be any redundancies as a result of the proposed changes?

There will be no compulsory redundancies as a result of the proposals. Affected staff will be fully consulted and supported and will have access to a number of options, including voluntary severance and early retirement, relocation, redeployment and retraining opportunities.