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News : Closing Cornwall Fire and Rescue Service 999 Centre will Put Lives At Risk, Supporters Say

#contactcenterworld, @cornwallcouncil

Cornwall, UK, Sept 19, 2022 -- Cornwall Fire and Rescue Service's (CFRS) call operators have been backed by thousands after the prospect of the control centre being shut was put forward by the local council. On September 14, staff at the critical control centre, which takes 999 calls from across Cornwall, were told they might be losing their jobs.

CFRS management told staff that, as a money-saving exercise, it was considering outsourcing the critical control centre elsewhere. This could include giving the role to a call centre which wasn't part of a fire service.

The closure, which has not been firmly decided on, would happen by the end of March 2023. A petition pleading with Cornwall Council to block the proposal was started by John Rickard, who wrote on behalf of the Tolvaddon centre's staff.

According to Mr Rickard, the centre being moved out of Cornwall would put lives at risk. He said: "Help us to keep local knowledge at the forefront of responding to your community. On a daily basis, the call takers question people in a crisis about where they are, using the local knowledge to pinpoint exactly where the person is.

"Whether your house is burning down, you’re trapped in a car or your dog is down a mineshaft, do you think someone who is hundreds of miles away could know where you are truly?"

Mr Rickard went on that he fears that the closure could be the start of a slippery slope for CFRS. He said: "If this happens now, what’s next? - 999 calls taken outside of the UK? Privatise Fire Stations? Close fire stations? Hire in fire engines for the weekends?

"The team want to raise awareness and put this petition to Cornwall Council to block any such proposal."

He said the team answers over 59,000 calls per year, which include 999 calls. The staff behind this, Mr Rickard said, would be facing losing their jobs next year.

CornwallLive reported last week that the closure had not yet been confirmed. At the time, a source close to people in the service said: "This is a big mistake for Cornwall Fire Service, and a huge mistake for Cornwall," he said. "Cornwall residents, regardless of what CFO says publicly, will pay the price for this in a drop of fire safety.

"What [would the] August wildfires have looked like? How would the Malpas fire service have developed, if they are being managed and controlled by people hundreds of miles away with absolutely no Cornish knowledge? We are such a unique area of the country geographically.

"I really hope in the days to come staff in the service continue to make their voices heard both internally and publicly."

As well as this, the union which represents firefighters has firmly opposed the proposal. Guy Herrington, regional secretary for the Fire Brigades Union (FBU), said: "Cornwall Council must fund the service properly to ensure that the residents, and visitors to the county, receive a service that is fit for the 21st century, and that includes fire control. Central government funding cuts since 2010 are directly responsible for absurd decisions that fire and rescue services are having to consider.

"Shutting down the entirety of fire and rescue control is ridiculous, and no way to thank hard-working control staff for their dedication throughout the pandemic.

"Cornwall Council should be utterly ashamed of themselves for refusing to invest in a critical part of the service that ensure the safety of the public and firefighters, when they hold many millions of pounds in reserve. They are holding an axe above our members’ heads."

Mr Herrington echoed the sentiments of the other critics and said that local knowledge for call operators is essential for a functioning fire service.

CFRS chief fire officer Kathryn Billing said: "Cornwall Fire and Rescue Service has been looking at all areas of the service to make sure we are making the best use of public money, continually improve the service and ensure sustainability for the future.

"There is an ongoing project to review fire control (the function of taking 999 calls and mobilising fire engines to emergencies). Yesterday staff were talked through the scope of the project for the first time and made aware that one option the service is exploring is to move into a partnership with other fire services to deliver the call handling and mobilising function of control.

#contactcenterworld, @cornwallcouncil

Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent

About Cornwall Council:
Company LogoCornwall Council (Cornish: Konsel Kernow) is the unitary authority for Cornwall, in England, United Kingdom. The council, and its predecessor Cornwall County Council, has a tradition of large groups of independents, having been controlled by independents in the 1970s and 1980s. As of the 2013 election, it is run by an Independent-Liberal Democrat coalition.
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Today's Tip of the Day - Multi Contact

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Published: Wednesday, September 21, 2022

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