Nathan White

How control works

By Nathan White

The Avon Fire and Rescue Service (AF&RS) control function sits within the Ops Response sector of the Service. Control is operational 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and mirrors the wholetime duty watch system that functions on fire stations.

The primary responsibility of control is to act as the first point of contact for emergency 999 calls and monitor and maintain the overall demand on the service, and respond appropriately. As the only sector of the service with a full, dynamic view of the demand on assets and resources, it is the remit of control to keep the Duty Group Commander and Duty Principal Officers informed of any operational considerations in need of their attention and/or input.

This primary responsibility of Control is broken down into key functions including mobilising appliances to respond to emergency incidents, conducting strategic covering moves to maintain fire cover (and response times), liaising with crews from the incident ground, maintaining accurate incident logs and supporting emergency operations wherever and however possible.

This often requires liaison with other agencies, authorities and services. The control room is a dynamic environment where all crew members are capable of back-filling any role required.

In order to function there are 4 key roles within control:

  • Mobiliser (Officer in Charge) – Responsible for overseeing the control function, ensuring the appropriate emergency response is mobilised to all incidents and all resulting actions from the incident ground are completed. It is also the Mobiliser’s responsibility to monitor the status of communications equipment to ensure the smooth and continuous operation of wholetime turnout and on-call alert systems. Finally, the Mobiliser is responsible for the welfare of the crew in control and liaising with senior management regarding any operational or welfare issues that may arise. At times of high call volumes, the Mobiliser will take emergency 999 calls.
  • Radio Operator – The Radio Operator is arguably the most important role in the control room and the only position (including the OIC/Mobiliser) that does not pick up emergency calls. The radio operator maintains radio watch and is the main (often only) point of contact for communications between control and fire crews/appliances who are mobile on the service ground or in attendance at incidents. Further to this, the position is responsible for monitoring the location and status changes of appliances and identifying gaps in cover when they arise.
  • Call Handlers – Call handlers are responsible for taking emergency 999 calls and mobilising fire appliances in the first instance. Call handlers are also responsible for much of the administration work required to keep the control room functional; fielding administration calls both internally and externally and providing information and advice to colleagues and members of the public.
  • Message Logger – The message logger is responsible for entering messages received from the incident ground, for monitoring and maintaining the correct officer cover as per the duty roster and also supporting the needs of the control room by either taking emergency calls when the available Call Takers are occupied or taking control of the airwaves in the absence of the Radio Operator.
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