07 February 2011
Staff at Jersey Fire and Rescue Service have saved the department almost £300,000 by converting an old chip pan demonstrator into a fully equipped, mobile command unit, to support staff at major emergencies.
Fire chiefs decided they needed better support for large incidents, like the Broadlands and Val de la Mare fires, to provide up to date, accurate information, and to enable command staff to make joint decisions with other agencies.
The Chief Fire Officer, Mark James, agreed to take up Station Manager Mike Baudains’ idea to recycle an existing van designed as a community safety and chip pan demonstrator, which wasn’t getting much use because of changes in the way community safety is taught.
The van was stripped out and re-equipped as a mobile operations room. It now features 2 laptops with access to risk information and tactical plans, a large HD display screen, tetra and marine radios with a signal repeater station and mobile communications - including wi-fi internet and e-mail access.
There is also a web cam and remote operated surveillance camera for better situation awareness, independent generator power supplies and Jersey mapping software to support command decisions.
A group of fire service staff worked weekends and evenings on the project, which was completed on time and within budget.
Mark James said “This could not have been achieved without the vision, innovation and hard work of staff. The unit represents very good value for money and we can now run emergencies jointly with other agencies, with the right support to help us work effectively and safely.”
Mike Baudains oversaw the conversion “We have some talented staff in the fire service. One of our operational support officers, Lez Ballingall, did the metal work; firefighter John Vautier used to work as a joiner and he built the cabinets; and our Information Services Manager, Will Stewart, installed all the computer equipment.
"It cost just £30,000, including the equipment. A UK fire brigade paid £300, 000 for a similar vehicle, which is quite a difference.”
The Home Affairs Minister, Senator Ian Le Marquand, said “I am very proud of our Fire and Rescue Service and their can-do attitude. This is a tremendous achievement by a team of very committed staff.
“It demonstrates what people at the grass roots level can achieve with the right encouragement. I hope that this prompts other public sector staff to come up with creative ideas to improve their service. It is often the people on the ground who come up with the best ideas.”