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The intranet-based application has been made available to all employees including those in Fire Safety and Community Safety and at each of the 18 fire stations in Berkshire.
Anne Eatwell, IT Development Officer, said: “RBFRS commissioned Cadcorp to develop a bespoke web mapping application in 2008 specifically for use within our incident recording system and for fire safety inspections. The application did what we asked of it. However, like all fire services, we are constantly reviewing our service in the face of changing expectations and pressures on funding. We recognised that it might be more effective for us to switch to a maintained off-the-shelf application customised to meet our needs, and Cadcorp’s Web Map Layers appeared to meet our requirements.”
Following a period of evaluation RBFRS has now replaced the original bespoke application with Web Map Layers. The new application continues to provide a map window into what is an essential database in RBFRS - the ‘Incident and Building Information System’ (IBIS). It is the responsibility of fire crews returning from an incident to record all the relevant information about an incident and any additional risk information at the location in IBIS. This information includes the actual location of the incident, which may differ from the approximate location as described in the control system that dispatched the crew in the first instance. The database also includes information on the local geography of the land and buildings involved in the incident, such as points of access and the location of hazards.
Ms Eatwell describes the practical significance of having a map-based front-end to an incident and building database. “The integration of web mapping with IBIS makes it much easier for returning fire crews to enter locational information themselves. Because the application is easy to use, fire fighters have been able to take ownership of the information in this database. They know that the safety of the public and their own safety may depend on the information being accurate and up to date.”
Moving to an off-the-shelf web mapping application has brought other benefits to RBFRS as Ms Eatwell explains. “Our vision is to contribute to a safer Berkshire by reducing the incidence of death, injury and damage to property from fire and other emergencies. Web mapping is central to the achievement of this vision. It makes information on location more widely available – to more people, and also to more applications. We are using geographic information to support all three of our areas of responsibility: protection, prevention and response.
“For example, we use Web Map Layers to check the addresses of properties which are due for fire safety inspections, and for measuring the extent of properties. We identify high risk properties as red dots on a map, and we use web mapping to optimise the way we visit the properties to inspect them. Our Arson Team is able to use mapping to identify arson hot spots - particularly useful as the mapping shows incidents on average within 3 hours of closing. Our Community Safety team uses web mapping to identify potentially vulnerable communities and properties, which they will target in safety campaigns. We are also using Web Map Layers to indicate how well we are performing in responding to calls, by mapping our predicted travel times and actual travel times, and comparing the two.”
RBFRS has experienced a 19% reduction in 999 calls over the four year period 2007 to 2011, and there have been no fire deaths in commercial premises in Berkshire over recent years. However the authority which is one of the least expensive combined fire and rescue authorities in the country, is not complacent. “The challenges don’t diminish with success” notes Ms Eatwell. “For example, one of the busiest motorways in Europe – the M4 – runs right through Berkshire. We now rescue five times the number of people from cars as we do from fires. We will always have a need to ‘know where’. It’s simply that our reasons for knowing where will change.”
“Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service has been a customer of Cadcorp since 2004” noted Mike O’Neil, CEO of Cadcorp. “It is encouraging for us as a supplier of GIS and web mapping software to be able to offer technology and products which are keeping pace with the customer’s evolving needs, and which can accommodate changing and unknown priorities.