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Themes from Emergency Services Show

Updated: Jan 28, 2019

Collaboration, integrating technology in operations and learning from previous incidents were at the centre of discussions

This week Westlands Advisory attended the Emergency Services Show in Birmingham which brings together the first responder end user community to share experiences and discuss challenges the sector faces.

It was especially evident throughout the show that the priority for security agencies is to provide better services to the public and improve response to major incidents against the backdrop of diminishing resources. Presentations from government departments and emergency service agencies showed that they will continue to challenge themselves and better utilise new technologies to deliver this. Case studies from West Midlands Police UAV deployment and, Home Office briefings on new applications on mobile devices and updated IT systems all point to greater engagement with emerging technologies. However, this will not replace or radically change operating procedures in the near term but rather complement and enhance the existing capabilities.

Communications are at the core of future strategies – getting the right information to the decision makers is the focus

The repeated theme across a lot of the sessions and conversations centred around communication and information. It’s a simple principle, but getting relevant information to the right person at the right time to make an informed decision is still challenging in a rapidly changing operating environment. Technology will play a critical role and must facilitate information flow, whether for a major incident or day to day operations.

The upcoming UK Emergency Services Network should help to solve some of these issues, assuming that the current challenges it faces with integration, costs and roll out are addressed. Programmes like this are contentious in nature, and the pros and cons widely debated. What is clear, is the desire of the community to learn and be better prepared for the next major incident. Ensuring they have the right tools to deal with this is critical.

Focus on Manchester – Learning lessons to improve response

Unsurprisingly one of the most well attended discussions was around lessons learnt from the Manchester Arena Bombing in 2017 and reports from the Kerslake review. The key learnings from the report are evident. Issues with communication, the Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service response, failure of the casualty bureau system and behaviour of the media all provided challenges to a more effective response. Two key points were highlighted.

  • Preparation was critical to the response. The training paramedics had received three weeks before on how to deal with a mass casualty incident proved invaluable. In the future, regular training programmes to deal with major events and mass casualty incidents will be a priority.

  • Ensuring there is no single point of failure. The duty officer working that night was faced with multiple agencies and people trying to get hold of them, and with only one phone the communication flow proved a challenge. Following the JESIP ( Joint Emergency Services Interoperability Principles) principles to ensure a coordinated multi agency strategy and that all agencies have the right information at the right time is critical. For this to happen effectively robust and resilient technology and communication is required.

Against some of the most challenging circumstances the services did incredibly well and their relentless will to improve should mean that they are even better prepared in the future.

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