Headlines: November 15th, 2005

Fire and Rescue Services in England are to get a new nationwide digital radio system. The Government has announced that telecomms company O2 Airwave Ltd. has been selected as the preferred bidder subject to completion of final details. The new system will come into operation next year alongside regional control centres.The company will rollout a new system to include both voice and data transmissions, not only replacing current arrangements but also improving the existing capability by, for example, being able to operate across all fire and rescue service areas and with the radio systems used by the police and ambulance services.

Bernie Cahill, of the Chief Fire Officers Association, said the announcement of a contract award for the system – to be called Firelink – was a significant milestone. “The Fire and Rescue Service has worked closely with the project team on the development of the Firelink requirement as well as the evaluation of proposals. Through this close collaboration, I am confident the project will deliver a solution that best meets our user needs and greatly improves interoperability with our colleagues in the other emergency services,” he added.

The bidding process has been subject to open competition and has been run in accordance with European Union guidelines. Fire Service Minister, Jim Fitzpatrick said the Government was investing heavily to ensure the Fire and Rescue Service was able to meet the challenges of the modern world. “Events such as the flooding in Boscastle and Carlisle as well as the need to respond to terrorist incidents such as the London bomb attacks in July show just how important this is,” the Minister said.

The new radio system will be rolled out from 2006 and in England this will be coordinated with the establishment of regional fire control centres.