24th November 2017

MSP Tavish Scott meets chief fire officer over fire control room blunders

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Reassurances have been made that a series of operational blunders highlighted since the opening of the fire service control centre in Dundee will not be repeated.

Isles MSP Tavish Scott has met Scottish Fire and Rescue Service’s chief officer, Alasdair Hay, to discuss problems facing the service.

The meeting came after retired senior officer, Alec Kidd, highlighted a number of errors in the 30 days since the £10 million development in Tayside began serving the north of Scotland, including Shetland.

Emergency call handlers from Aberdeen and Inverness were moved to Dundee in December. Since then, a range of errors have been made including crew from Bressay initially being dispatched to an incident in Yell, although the Bressay crew quickly realised the mistake and notified control staff.

Mr Scott says he has written to the convener of the Scottish parliament’s justice committee, as well as the Auditor General, about the need to review the centralisation of fire services.

“The Dundee control room for 999 emergency call outs must work for all of us,” he warned.

“I discussed the detail of what went wrong with the recent incident involving Yell and Bressay. It is reassuring that the local fire crews in both islands immediately spotted the technical mistake. The problem was rectified and fire appliances were sent to the right destination on the right island. I sought an assurance that this shouldn’t happen again and I was pleased by the Chief Fire Officer’s commitment to that.”

The problem has led to renewed calls for a dedicated emergency call centre to be established in the isles.

SIC member Jonathan Wills has previously spoke in favour of a local control room for fire, police, ambulance and coastguard services. Today, he reiterated those calls.

“Google maps is no substitute for local knowledge,” he said. “It seems to me quite ridiculous – not really ridiculous, because it’s not funny. This could be serious. This is quite dangerous.

“I would like to see a local control room. There’s not much to choose between Glasgow, Dundee and Inverness, because you’re not going to get local knowledge in any of those places.”

Council convener, Malcolm Bell, insisted he would not sleep any easier by knowing a control centre was operating in the Highland capital, but would if one was set up in Shetland.

Mr Bell said he was not impressed with centralisation.

SIC Convenor Malcolm Bell Photo:Dave Donaldson

“To my view, what would be best for Shetland, would be the four blue light services coming together in Shetland under a single control room.

“I don’t think that a control room in Dundee is any more likely to make a mistake about Shetland geography than a control room in Inverness. The issue is when the control room leaves the isles.

“I don’t sleep any easier in my bed at night knowing the control room is in Inverness.”

Mr Scott said he also raised the maintenance of fire appliances with Mr Hay.

“He assures me that equipment in Shetland is being maintained to the proper standard and more often than is set down in fire regulations. That is important and right.”

The MSP added he would meet the chief again in April to review progress on control room operations.

“I look forward to continuing a sensible dialogue about this essential part of the islands emergency cover.”

About Ryan Taylor

Ryan Taylor has worked as a reporter since 1995, and has been at The Shetland Times since 2007, covering a wide variety of news topics. Before then he reported for other newspapers in the Highlands, where he was raised, and in Fife, where he began his career with DC Thomson. He also has experience in broadcast journalism with Grampian Television. He has lived in Shetland since 2002, where he harbours an unhealthy interest in old cars and motorbikes.

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