The Day in the Life of a 999 Fire Control Operator
Within Emergency Fire Control there are four Watches.
These are usually named as Red, Green, Blue or White Watch. They run in line with Station Watches, this enables a good relation to be struck with Stations resulting in consistency between Station’s and Control.
The shift pattern can consist of i.e: two 9 hour day shifts, 0900 to 1800hrs and two 15 hour night shifts, 1800 to 0900hrs or in some cases two 12 hour days and two 12 hour night duties, running concurrently, start times may vary depending on which part of the Country the Fire Service Control Room is based.
Each Watch consists of approximately seven/eight individuals, never going below five as a minimum. The rank structure would involve a Watch Manager (WM) -(Supervisor), two Crew Managers (CM) – (Supervisor’s) and the rest as Fire Control Operator’s – (FCOp).
Almost all Control rooms work with three computer’s:
- The first is the Mobilizing, live computer, or MOBs for short. This is the most important system you will work with. It is the system that sends all information to the Station’s. As the Fire position operator it is the system that you enter the relevant details into such as location, type and equipment requirement for any incident that the Station’s will attend. The MOBs system is connected to an electronic map and each appliance shows on that map using a separate number known as a ‘Callsign’. The Appliance Callsign status will change on the map as soon as the Radio Operator types this into the MOBs, It is important to complete this function straight away as it can aid the Supervisor’s to see what is available for use and if the County is covered with appliances available in all locations.
- The second is a standard PC, which is there for email, defect reporting, spreadsheets and holds all information from how to complete a Defect form to what to send to more complicated incidents and how to complete/run them. This also includes Policies and the Fire Brigade Website.
- The third computer is a touch screen telephone known as the Incident Command System (ICS) that has contacts to all Station’s, Outside Agencies such as Police, Ambulance, gas, electricity boards, Railways etc.
As a FCOp the greatest skills you will require are: Communication and listening!
Each rank sits at a desk and this inturn holds specific job roles for that day, these are handed out on handover and it is vital that these are completed as soon as possible.
At the beginning of each shift you would ‘take over’ from the previous FCOp that has completed their shift. They will inform you of any incidents of interest or that are still live and running, they may even ask you to contact outside agencies etc, to inform or gain information that is required for the incident. These are top priority and should be completed as soon as is possible.
Once the handover is completed you will sign into each computer. The Fire position (999 line) and Radio position’s will be the most involved positions of that shift.
All Emergency calls will be routed to the Fire position and it is this person that will answer calls initially. Good listening skills and accurate, fast typing onto the Incident Format screen, are essential. Once you become proficient in this you will usually have an appliance en-route to incident before you finish your call. If the incident is likely to be of a larger nature or on a motorway for instance, then numerous calls will be received and everyone else, apart from the Radio position, will answer calls.
The Radio position is where contact is continuously made with Fire Crews or Officers that are ‘out and about’ or in attendance at incidents, it is the main, mobile means of contact. Information is passed to the Radio operator from the crews which is then typed onto the Incident log, along with request for further information or equipment they require. The information is confirmed with them, over the ral that they are either Mobile to incident, In Attendance or Modio, another Operator will already be dealing with any requirements requested. It is also the way Control would pass onto the Crews any information that they felt was relevant, again this is all typed onto the incident log. Appliances inform via Radio to Controbile and available (which would indicate that they are available for reuse). In this respect every Appliance’s whereabouts are known at all times.
Those FCOp’s that are not sat at either the Fire or Radio position’s, will sit at ‘normal’ position’s. Each position has exactly the same equipment. These FCOp’s would deal with general Admin calls, some from Station’s specifically that need question’s answered or are reporting defects on appliances, or just informing Control of information they feel is relevant.
On reporting defects it can require the appliance to be taken ‘off the run’ as they are not fit for service. This information must be passed onto the WM/CM they can then determine if another appliance should be moved to that station. This issue would also require you to inform various people within the Service and all information annotated onto the system. Stations will contact the Engineering Department themselves during weekday, daytime shifts. During night duties or weekends this will be Control’s responsibility and an allocated Duty Engineer is contacted via a paging system or phone call. They will nominate a Duty Mechanic, your responsibility is to contact them and ensure that the all information is passed on. Once the appliance is back available you must enter onto the MOBs that they are, this ensures that the electronic map shows them being available. Informing the WM/CM is also essential so that they can complete any actions they require to make.
At all times any information that you receive into Control is ‘logged’ whether it be on either the PC or MOBs or verbally passed onto your WM or CM.
Data protection is a huge part of your role as a Control Operator. Each Service has their own view on this, but, usually has the same outcome. During each shift duty you will encounter contact from the general Media, newspaper’s, TV and radio. If there has been a particularly large or unusual incident or, sadly, where someone has died or been injured during an incident, then these types of phone calls are to be expected. A statement from the Service Media Department will be passed to Control and only this is to be given. At no time do you mention names or full addresses and if callers are usually persistent then they would be passed through to the Media Department.
The following day each FCOp will move to the next position, and so on. This is to ensure that consistency on competency within each job role is completed enabling each FCOp to be able to complete any task that is asked of them. Request can come from the WM, Station, Officer’s or members of the public.
These were just a few example’s of tasks that Fire Control complete on a daily basis.
Once your training is completed and you are on Watch, you are required to complete an electronic Training system. This will help to keep you updated on all of your skills. This job is one that has an ongoing learning process, policies and procedures are continuously changing and being updated. You will be expected to check these daily. Some information you gain via this is essential, especially if it affects a certain aspect of mobilizing to an incident.
Ongoing training is completed on a daily basis with specific topics depicted monthly. You would be nominated a Mentor, CM normally, they will monitor your progress and appraise you at six monthly intervals. Watch training is completed either on a written question and answer basis or via a practical exercise that your Mentor will arrange. These usually consist of scenario’s dealing with more complicated attendances to incidents i.e. Chemical, Marine or Air incidents. This can be completed where there is a gap in the day that you are not so busy or on your night duties. It is important that they these records are kept up-to-date and will need to be completed on a daily basis. This will secure your Competency payment, that you receive each month, once you are a qualified, competent Control Operator.
The whole process of becoming qualified/competent depends on each Fire Service, but, is usually between one to two years.