The UK’s emergency services are the backbone of our society and help to keep us safe 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. However, they face both a unique challenge and opportunity in the form of Information Communications Technology (ICT).
Like many businesses in any other sector in today’s technology-focused world, they need to embrace digital transformation and take advantage of new ICT services, manage all the risks involved and achieve it on increasingly tight budgets. Emergency services are also keen to respond to the growth of social media and use it to engage with the community.
Between 2015 and 2019, the UK’s emergency fire and rescue services sector faced a dramatic 22% reduction in their budgets due to government funding cuts, which further emphasises the need for emergency services to embrace this digital transformation, not only to survive but also to thrive.
Blue Light services in the UK are facing growing pressures to increase inter-service collaboration, to share information and services with other emergency service providers, and to enable operational effectiveness – all while continuing to tackle an increased number of incidents.
In order to meet this demand, Blue Light services need to harness every technological tool available and use these to deliver services that continue to evolve to meet the changing needs of the community. The question is whether these services have the capacity to undertake digital transformation, manage government-led technology reform and, most importantly, continue to save lives.
Our new whitepaper1 revealed all of the considerations that emergency services sectors must consider when investing in this technology.
There are a number of factors driving digital transformation in the emergency services sector, including political, economic, social, technological, environmental and legal trends.
In 2013, the Emergency Services Mobile Communications Programme (ESMCP) was announced by the Home Office, with early phases of testing and deployment set to begin later this year. This will see the introduction of a dedicated Emergency Services Network (ESN), migrating emergency communications services from TETRA two-way radio networks to a cellular 4G service and requiring alterations at a fundamental level within the network and control-room infrastructure of each service.
To move from TETRA to ESN it is predicted that around 300,000 users will require new 4G devices; 45,000 vehicles and 115 aircraft will need to be fitted with new communications equipment; and around 230 control rooms will have to be upgraded. Support is readily available during implementation where third parties are involved, but budgetary constraints, new equipment and infrastructure require many emergency service support staff to undergo training, learn new systems and become involved with technology support at a detailed level.
There is a further need for inter-service collaboration to bring together data and knowledge across all three Blue Light services, thus adding to the pressure on ICT staff across each sector. But the obvious prioritisation of limited budgets on front-line services instead of back-office functions adds to this pressure. This in turn presents further challenges for in-house ICT support as it still requires maintenance, upgrading and daily support but with markedly less funding.
To lessen the burden and drive the best value moving forward, emergency services need to make greater use of managed ICT services, as these will supply benefits including reduced operational costs, increased expertise and flexibility, and the future-proofing of equipment and systems.
However, organisations must consider this approach carefully and ensure future partners meet certain key criteria. Whether emergency services want to use an external provider for all their ICT needs or just a few key areas, it is important that they find a provider who has made the right investment in their own systems, expertise and resource levels so that these benefits are passed on and can directly benefit the organisation’s service levels.
Any partner should also understand the sectors’ organisational goals, challenges, current processes and culture. They should build stability and flexibility into their proposal so that the service offering can evolve as Blue Light services’ needs continue to progress. The UK’s Emergency Services must choose an ICT provider who can guarantee savings from the first day and allow reinvestment in front-line services, and this saving should continue year on year as the relationship continues to grow.
It is imperative that ICT providers ensure that equipment and systems are constantly modernised and that the organisation is provided with the most up-to-date software to protect from foreseeable threats. The provider will ideally have a thorough understanding of the public-safety sector and proven expertise in both contemporary and legacy systems whilst also providing accredited engineers for round-the-clock support.
telent’s managed ICT services
telent provides technology and network services to many of the UK and Ireland’s largest and most ‘mission critical’ operational systems in the public-safety community. We can provide around 130 service catalogue items in our ICT Managed Service offering for emergency services. telent provides engineers with knowledge in a breadth of specialist technologies with business analysis skills, who have been working with the emergency services for over a decade.
A managed ICT service provides financial certainty, and this is an attractive proposition for Blue Light services with financial reporting and measurement. Customers can also expect changes in practice or technology to be accommodated quickly with minimal cost and disruption. Using a partnership-centric approach and enabling inter-organisation collaboration, the Blue Light services can get a host of benefits from their ICT providers.
telent provides local working for emergency services, ensuring that there are always staff on site to assist with any problem as it arises and, where possible, we try to hire locally to ensure knowledge of local issues, attitudes and priorities.
In a period where UK Emergency Services are required to continue to operate and provide their outstanding, life-saving service without a dip in performance, choosing the right ICT provider and digitally transforming your systems has never been so important.
For more information, go to www.telent.com