A ground-breaking project that has become the envy of emergency service providers across the world will celebrate a significant milestone next month.
Sunday 19 April marks the 10th anniversary of the Emergency Services Joint Control Room (ESJCR), a unique facility at the forefront of efforts to maintain community safety in the Isle of Man.
Whereas most countries have separate control rooms to deal with police, fire and ambulance 999 calls, everything is handled under one roof in the Island. This can improve the coordination of multi-agency emergency incidents, reduce response times and ultimately help to save lives.
The ESJCR, which is managed by the Communications Division of the Department of Home Affairs, has helped to establish the Isle of Man as a global leader in terms of integrated communications. It has attracted interest from the UK, Channel Islands, Europe and the Middle East over the past decade, with many delegations visiting the Island to see the system in action.
Since it became operational in April 2004, the purpose-built facility in Douglas has handled 332,520 emergency events, more than 184,000 emergency 999 calls and almost 4.5 million non-999 calls.
The severe weather and tidal flooding experienced at the beginning of the year once again brought the work of the control room into sharp focus and highlighted the benefits of an integrated approach.
Similarly, the central coordination of police, fire and ambulance resources helped to ensure a swift response to some major events in 2013, including the snowstorms in March and the incident on Bray Hill during the Senior TT.
The ESJCR’s mission statement is ‘to respond to people in distress as quickly and efficiently as possible’. Operators take an average of 2.17 seconds to answer a call – well within the target time of 5 seconds – and are trained to deal with a wide range of situations, often speaking to people when they are at their most vulnerable.
And while the volume of calls is continuing to increase, the Communications Division is contributing to the Department’s efforts to drive forward efficiencies and cut costs. A phased succession plan will see a reduction of three full-time posts, generating annual savings of £140,000.
Home Affairs Minister Juan Watterson MHK said: ‘The Department is committed to maintaining the quality of life we all enjoy in the Isle of Man. The Emergency Services Joint Control Room is an important part of our efforts to help people feel safe, protected and secure. There is also a substantial cost saving to the taxpayer, as we are operating a single integrated control room rather than three separate ones for the police, fire and ambulance. The Isle of Man is a world leader in this field. While other governments and nations talked about integrated communications, we took action and the people of the Island have seen the benefits for the past 10 years.’
He added: ‘Whenever I visit the ESJCR I am struck by the large volume of calls handled by the operators. Their professionalism, often when dealing with people in stressful situations, is very reassuring and helps us to provide a first-class service to the local community.’
In conjunction with the ESJCR, the Department of Home Affairs also launched its Terrestrial Trunked Radio (TETRA) system in 2004. It is used by 23 different organisations across Government, with approximately 3,300 terminals in operation, and has handled almost 14 million calls.
TETRA provides secure communications and continues to play an essential role in the safe running of the Island’s motorsport festivals. All police officers, fire crews, ambulance teams, marshals, race controllers, vehicles and helicopters use TETRA, and events such as the TT and MGP could not function as effectively without it.