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Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service

9th January, 2013

“Multitone fully met our expectations. The project management was exemplary, with a thorough understanding of our requirements and the transition and implementation was smooth with minimal disruption.”

Helen Lambard, ICT Project Manager, Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service

Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service provides emergency crews for incidents across the county, as well as advising on fire safety to residents and businesses throughout Norfolk. The Headquarters of Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service is in the village of Hethersett which is 6 miles (9.7 km) southwest of Norwich and acts as a central hub for the service’s essential communications, serving a population of over 860,000 people across Norfolk. The Service has 41 sites across the county, which consists of full-time crewed stations, retained stations and some sites which are a mixture of both.

With a combination of large urban, small towns and large areas of rural and farming land, as well as nearly 100 miles of coastline, Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service heavily relies upon excellent communications both for public reporting of incidents and also the allocation and dispatch of crews (especially retained crews) and rescue vehicles to where they are needed. Having previously used the same pager system for 20 years, Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service was looking to replace the systems at each station with a modern, highly adaptive and equally reliable replacement that would be easy for users to adopt.

Communication with retained crews is an essential facet of Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service’s ability to handle emergency situations. The system calls out retained crews and reliability is monitored through drills. Crew members carry around the pager and once the alert has been triggered for the call-out, users know if it is a test or whether it is a real fire, using a slightly different sound for each. The aim is for retained crews to be contacted and ready to be dispatched on the fire engine within four minutes.

Initially Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service put out the requirement to tender to looking for competitive pricing. Through the process of comparing several suppliers and weighing up the benefits Multitone became the clear favourite. Having already successfully relied upon Multitone systems for the retained fireman notification facility, and with an excellent tender bid, Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service contacted the company to specify and design a replacement for the previous system. Peter Eborall, Account Manager at Multitone comments, “Multitone’s pager system had proven its worth over 20 years of reliable service but Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service was ready to upgrade to the latest version of our Alerter system. We have had a strong, on-going relationship with the Service so already had an excellent working knowledge of its challenges and communications needs which meant we were ideally placed to work with them to design and install a replacement.”

Helen Lambard, of the ICT Projects team at Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service, elaborates, “The solution is important for the retained (on-call) crews, as they rely upon it to summon them to a job. Initially our key criteria were the quality of the system, maintenance and support provision. However once we looked closer, the whole-of-life costs and affordability of the products and services, as well as the ability to meet timescales with project support and planning, were also key considerations. Having successfully used Multitone’s systems in the past and looking for a direct replacement we were convinced the company would provide an excellent, up-to-date replacement.

The Predominance of Multitone in the market, our previous use of their products, the fact we were already reassured of the reliability of both the company and its systems and that it has a local office in Kings Lynn for local system support, all helped us to reach our decision.“

As Project Manager, Helen Lambard oversaw the whole implementation project and worked directly with Multitone to organise any required staff training and to compile documentation for users. She comments, “Working with a familiar product meant minimum training was required for the station crews and the ability to continue business as usual very quickly was very welcome. There was a very low level of disruption which is highly important for an organisation that deals with critical situations. The comments from users were also very positive, there was a great appreciation for the smooth changeover and minimal upheaval for the staff involved.”

As well as the excellent end result, the whole installation process fully met with Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service’s expectations, as Helen Lambard adds, “It was a joy to work with the Multitone team assigned to our project. The Project Manager was always able to answer questions in the planning process and made sure that he understood exactly the requirements in order to plan for a smooth roll-out. The team of fitters were a credit to the company and were professional and efficient and yet flexible and friendly to fit in with the needs of each fire station. They worked well with our Control Room through the testing process at each station and I never had any doubt in their ability to complete the job on target.”

Helen Lambard concludes, “Multitone fully met our expectations. The project management was exemplary, with a thorough understanding of our requirements and the transition and implementation was smooth with no minimal disruption – which meant we could maintain our service levels (which in some circumstances can be a matter of life and death) as usual. We would definitely recommend Multitone and its products to other emergency services organisations.”

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Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service