Giving dispatchers ‘eyes’ on the emergency scene

30 August 2018


Control room operators are under immense pressure to question 999 callers to ascertain what’s happening, where and what resources are required – and to do this as quickly as possible.

To support the emergency services, Capita has helped develop a system that allows 999 callers with smart devices to securely send live-streamed footage of incidents to control rooms. 

At the end of 2016, in collaboration with Capita, West Midlands Fire and Rescue Service (WMFRS) launched 999eye, asmartphone solution that enables 999 callers, with compatible mobile devices, to securely send live footage or images of incidents to emergency service control rooms.

It works by sending, with the 999 caller’s permission, a text message to their smartphone containing a URL. Once clicked, a one-use-only live stream is established that allows footage or images to be sent directly to the control room. GPS coordinates are also delivered, helping to pinpoint the exact location of an incident.

According to Capita, the live images offer instant ‘on-scene eyes’ that help operators to better assess the scenario and select the appropriate resources to dispatch.

West Midlands Fire Service worked on the prototype but needed help to put its vision into action. Capita said its team provided the technological expertise to ensure the software was secure and wouldn’t expose the department’s emergency systems to risk. It was also able to provide the crucial reliability needed across networks.

Capita then helped WMFRS to embed 999eye into its main mobilisation system, further streamlining operations and improving efficiency. People in need of help still call 999 as normal, and there is no change to how firefighters are then mobilised based on the information given.

After pilot studies in 2016, WMFRS went fully live with the app in May 2017. In the first month, Capita says 50 members of the public used the service to send images of ongoing emergencies.

999eye is now helping operators in Staffordshire and West Midlands Fire Control ensure the most appropriate resources are sent to incidents. The app has already allowed control room staff to re-assess if the initial response is appropriate, deliver further information to responding crews or assess that no resource is needed to be sent. Capita says all of this is thanks to the ability to have remote eyes on scene.