Herts fire control centre 999 calls diverted to Norfolk for 12 hours due to ‘network issue’

Herts Fire's control room went into "total shutdown" last month. Picture: Archant

Herts Fire's control room went into "total shutdown" last month. Picture: Archant - Credit: Archant

Herts Fire and Rescue Service’s control room had to divert 999 calls for 12 hours after a network issue last month.

The source, who worked for the service for more than 30 years, told us that the control centre based at the Longfield site in Stevenage’s Hitchin Road was being affected by an unknown issue with their dispatching system.

“From late afternoon on February 11, the Hertfordshire Fire and Rescue Service control centre in Stevenage was in total shutdown due to an unknown problem with the notoriously unreliable Vision 4 system,” our source said.

“Even Herts stations were unable to call the control on the landlines and had to remain on ‘radio watch’ throughout the night as the turnout systems for the stations were in an unknown state of operation.

“Norfolk fire control took over running the entire 999 system for the service as per the re-planned contingency.”

The Herts Fire and Rescue Service confirmed that the control room was unable to accept emergency calls for half a day, but said the Vision 4 system was not to blame.

A spokeswoman said: “Our fire control centre in Stevenage was unable to accept 999 calls for approximately 12 hours last month due to a network issue, which also affected other users. This was nothing to do with our Vision Four mobilising system.

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“As you would expect we have robust contingency plans in place for incidents such as these, which worked as planned and as such 999 calls were handled by our colleagues in Norfolk.

“We would like to reassure people that public safety was not compromised during this time, all incoming 999 calls were received and our fire engines were still able to be mobilised.”

It’s not the first time the Longfield control room has had IT problems.

In January last year, another inside source told this paper that they would routinely spend four or five hours each day trying to get into the computer systems.

“I absolutely believe that the lack of faith in the system when we go out to a job is putting lives in danger,” they said.

These claims were refuted by a Herts County Council spokesman, who said: “While these issues are frustrating for both HFRS fire control and operational crews, they are not preventing us from delivering an effective emergency response.”