SHROPSHIRE Fire and Rescue Service has unveiled a new control room in Shrewsbury.

It is part of a £2 million project to update equipment and link up fire authorities in Shropshire, Herefordshire and Worcestershire.

The project will see control rooms in Shrewsbury and Worcester sharing operations during busy periods.

The upgrade follows the scrapping of the national FireControl scheme in December 2010.

Chief Fire Officer Paul Raymond said: “Cancellation of the national FireControl project left us with a system well past it’s sell by date.

“We had to act. Can you imagine having a computer at home that you bought in 1997 and relying on it for your safety? That is what we were left with after the failure of the national project.”

Nine regional centres are expected to replace the current network of 46 local control rooms.

The precise location of an incident, including a detailed map, is identified and then sent to the nearest fire appliance, even if it is on the move.

The information is then relayed to crews through an on-board Global Positioning System (GPS).

The new control room in Shrewsbury employs local staff but will have links to Hereford and Worcester fire service’s control room so that fire crews can be jointly mobilised to large scale incidents like flooding.

It will mean fire chiefs can ensure the nearest fire engine will always get to any incident.

Mr Raymond said: “Hereford and Worcester Fire and Rescue Service has also bought the same system so that the two control rooms can be linked.

“It will mean for example that a 999 call to Wooferton on the A49 south of Ludlow, just on the border, may go to either Hereford and Worcester or Shrewsbury control rooms but fire engines from Ludlow, Tenbury or Leominster could be used to get to the incident as quickly as possible.

“A number of other services are also interested in joining this ‘matrixed’ system which is significantly cheaper than the predicted costs of the regional system.”

The cost of the whole matrixed system for the West Mercia area will cost over £2 million and both fire and rescue authorities are bidding for government funds to cover these costs.

Mr Raymond added: “As we are installing local systems that still deliver state of the art technology we are very hopeful of central government funding.

“We hope that government will see that we are acting and taking responsibility locally for our fire and rescue service and that they can help us financially.”