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Adam Bannister is a contributor to IFSEC Global, having been in the role of Editor from 2014 through to November 2019. Adam also had stints as a journalist at cybersecurity publication, The Daily Swig, and as Managing Editor at Dynamis Online Media Group.
November 9, 2016


State of Physical Access Trend Report 2024

999 callers will soon be able to live-stream incidents to control room

999eye-screenshotsWest Midlands Fire Service is piloting a smartphone app that allows 999 callers to live-stream footage of incidents directly to emergency services.

Called 999EYE the app, which is being tested internally before a launch date for public use is set, will be rolled out across other emergency services.

Callers who download the app will be sent a live-streaming link via text. When they click on this link they will be able to send footage or images that will help control room operators better understand the nature of an incident before first responders are sent to the scene and aid decision-making on manpower, equipment and strategy for dealing with a fire or crime scene.

The link, which can only be used once, also includes the caller’s GPS coordinates, so could boost 999 response times too.

The app has been developed by Capita at a cost of £70,000, much of which the fire service hopes to recoup through commercial applications.

The idea for the app was born in 2014 in the wake of a recycling plant fire in Smethwick, which saw 100,000 tonnes of recycled plastic go up in flames. West Midlands Fire Service thought that smartphones, which account for 60% of the UK’s 15  million 999 calls, held the key to helping them improve situational awareness and contain fires earlier.

“Responding to incidents safely, quickly and assertively is key to reducing casualties and damage to property,” said Steve Taylor of West Midlands Fire Service. “It will help to ensure that people get the most appropriate response, complementing the skills of our expert control staff in obtaining information from 999 callers.”

Said Chris Jones, CEO of PageOne, which is part of Capita: “This is a ground-breaking solution that has the potential to deliver significant benefits to blue light services and the general public. In addition to fire and rescue services, this technology could advance the way 999 calls are reported and dealt with by the police, ambulance services, the maritime and coastguard agency and mountain rescue services across the UK.”

A blog promoting the pilot said that: “So far we have received contact from some Fire and rescue services, Police forces and Ambulance trusts in the UK expressing interest in the project with a view to joining us on a pilot.”

Zak Doffman, CEO of video management software company Digital Barriers,  welcomed the innovation, but expressed bafflement over what he sees as a technological mismatch with kit being issued to police officers for a similar purpose.

“Access to live video is invaluable in enhancing the situational awareness of those taking critical decisions in the control room,” he said. “It’s therefore great news that members of the public can now securely submit footage in real time.

“However, I find it somewhat ironic that this is well beyond the capabilities of the technology that most police forces are currently rolling-out to their own employees on the front line.

The majority of body-worn cameras on the market today can only record the footage locally, which does nothing to improve officer safety or feed live intelligence back to the control room. So why are we equipping our first responders with “black boxes” that are already significantly out-of-date?”

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June 27, 2022 6:55 am

Just like Zak Doffman, CEO of Digital Barriers highlighted this innovation as a likely technological mismatch, I believe there is a need to give this a try, but I am concerned about the safety of the eye-witnesses trying to be a superhero by capturing real-time fire incidents amidst the threats to their life.