Collaboration, cities and the cloud - The 3C's that are set to transform the control room…

The pace of change facing the emergency services is unprecedented. Shifts in technology, an ageing and more diverse society, political uncertainty, continued severe threat levels of international terrorism as well as reduced budgets can only put extra demand on the emergency services.

The number of emergency admissions to hospitals has risen by 16 per cent over the last five years (NHS, 2018). 

Fire and rescue services responded to 565,000 incidents between 2017 and 2018, an increase of 6,000, whilst fire-related fatalities increased by 27 per cent from 261 to 334 during the same period (Home Office, 2018).

The challenges associated with evolving demand have been brought into sharper focus by the tragic Grenfell Tower fire and exacerbated by continued cuts to emergency service staff and resources. The loss of 21,000 police officers, 18,000 police staff and 6,800 police community support officers since 2010 has raised concerns over perceived levels of community safety and public security (HoC, 2018).

In this post, we look at some of these challenges through 3 lenses - Collaboration, Cities and the Cloud.



Successive governments have created measures to enable closer collaboration between emergency services to secure further gains in efficiency and quality. Heightened interoperability in areas such as training and information gathering are intended to deliver more effective service delivery, whilst joint use of estates and shared response systems can reduce cost for the taxpayer. The Joint Emergency Services Interoperability Programme (JESIP) was established 2012-2014 to deliver new multi-agency training and to instigate a new culture of cooperation across emergency services.

More recently, the police, fire and rescue and emergency ambulance services have a duty to collaborate as a result of the Policing and Crime Act 2017. This provides emergency services with a tangible legal framework to increase the scope of collaborative work and keep communities safer.

Many excellent examples of collaboration between the police, ambulance and fire and rescue service already exist, and it is the aim of the Emergency Services Collaboration Working Group (ESCWG) to help improve and accelerate the pace of this work to create a more cohesive national picture. The ESCWG, a cross-emergency service representative body, works with the emergency services (including those not covered in the Duty) and the government to highlight best practice, remove barriers to greater partnership and work to embed collaboration as the norm, for a brighter future.

Much of the work to deliver emergency services collaboration will be delivered locally. However, there is a need to ensure coordination, consistency and shared learning across the emergency services landscape.

Emergency services’ collaboration can take many forms, from operational matters such as co-responding to incidents to behind the scenes work such as sharing premises or integrating control rooms. Initiatives like these may help reinvest resources into the frontline and deliver an improved service to the public with shorter response times.

Whilst good partnership work already exists in many areas, more can be done to encourage wider and deeper collaboration. It was this desire to broaden and deepen collaboration across the country that the new statutory duty arose, giving a clear signal that a step change is required to fully realise the benefits that cross-service collaboration can provide.

Examples of Collaboration:

  • Shared Estates: Deryshire’s Police and Fire have built a joint HQ, which is projected to accrue ongoing savings of £1.5m in 10 years. The services are currently developing a joint training centre.

  • Co-responding: Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes FRS personnel have been co-responding to emergency medical calls with South Central Ambulance Service since 2011.

  • Shared Back Office / Command and Control Functions: Hereford and Worcester FRS relocated HQ functions to existing West Mercia Police HQ and are developing joint Contact Management Centre with Warwickshire and West Mercia Police.

  • Joint Operational Teams: Cambridgeshire FRS and Police have a Joint Arson Task Force, which has evolved over the years to create joint working and information-sharing across the county; helping to reduce arson-related incidents.

Although collaboration brings challenges, it also brings opportunities to improve and change how we operate and communicate. Technology can be a key enabler. This can be achieved by matching technology solutions to user requirements and through services collaborating with the wider market so suppliers and services can work together to achieve the objectives of collaboration.

At APD we constantly collaborate to co-create, with our partners and customers, the very best propositions in the critical communications marketplace - making it easy for you to plan and deliver digital transformation in your organisation.



The Smart City of the 21st century brings together hard infrastructure, local skills and community institutions, as well as digital technologies and infrastructure to fuel sustainable economic development and provide an attractive environment for all.

According to a United Nations study (2012), the population worldwide is moving towards urbanisation. This trend is estimated to continue long in to the future and the world’s urban population is predicted to rise by 72% or 6.3 billion, by 2050. It is anticipated that the economic, social and environmental issues will increase at a greater rate than the increase in population, which in turn will create a far higher demand on the public services provided.

What does a ‘smart city’ approach mean for the emergency and healthcare services?

The emergency services will see an increase in the volume of incidents requiring a response, not only from people, but also from devices and sensors around smart cities. There are already trials of microphones that listen for gunshots within cities and chemical sensors near manufacturing plants that flag emergency warnings to control rooms. The number of applications for such sensors will increase significantly over the next 10 years, as will the need for interacting with static video sources such as CCTV to help proactively monitor cities. We will also see a significant increase in mobile video sources, such as vehicle, drone, smart phone and body worn video within the 999-control room of the future.

Experts McKinsey Global Institute assessed how dozens of currently-available ‘smart city’ applications and technologies could support three sample cities with varying legacy infrastructure systems and baseline starting points.

They found that these tools could:

  • Reduce fatalities by 8–10%

  • Accelerate emergency response times by 20–35%

  • Shave the average commute by 15–20%

  • Lower the disease burden by 8–15%

  • Cut greenhouse gas emissions by 10–15%

Bringing all of this data into the control room could help prevent and reduce crime, attend incidents more quickly and ultimately save lives.

Command centres with ‘big data’ dashboards and data visualisation tools can help authorities monitor rapidly evolving situations, allocate help where it is needed, and coordinate multiple agencies. Drones are increasingly being used to survey damage over large areas, while drones and robots are beginning to assist with search-and-rescue efforts.


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The demand for ever-increasing efficiencies within the public sector is creating significant challenges for the emergency services. The ability to meet these challenges is hampered by outdated and fragmented systems which are expensive to maintain and hard to consolidate.

Emergency services are dealing with an exponential increase of digital information such as body worn video footage, images or videos from mobile phones, GPS data and automatic number plate recognition. With data being stored in a myriad of different departments and databases, it’s easy to see why data management can be an extremely complex task.

Considering potential applications and future-proofing, will help IT departments to deploy the most suitable solutions. For instance, will police officers recording an arrest on a body-worn camera, live-stream the recording to nearby officers for assessment and support to save time? Can fire and rescue crews assessing burning buildings use digital blue prints and live helicopter camera footage to improve how they handle the situation?

However, to realise the benefits of this data, many forces will need to consider adopting cloud-based systems in order to store and improve accessibility to data. Currently many forces are using a wide array of methods and systems to store information – including burning footage to disc or tape. It’s imperative to centralise operations and adopt common systems as this not only facilitates cross-department collaboration, but also promotes the sharing of information with other agencies.

Adopting the cloud will allow emergency responders to tackle their growing data storage problem in an affordable and scalable way. Once data is stored in the cloud, analytic and evidence management tools can be implemented to provide real-time insights, meaning forces become better informed and officers will be able to use advanced mobile applications on the go.

To meet these increasing demands and efficiencies, APD Communications has developed the Cloud Control Room.

With our Cloud Control Room solution, the headache that comes with upgrades are a thing of the past. Managed in the cloud, your upgrades are seamlessly rolled out to your control room without any down time. 

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  • Roll-out the latest software versions, with no extra cost

  • Eliminate down time in the control room

  • Reduce the complexity associated with upgrades

  • Be ready for ESN before, during and after transition

Our solutions are optimised for OFFICIAL and fully aligned to the 13 NCSC Cloud Security Principles. We also know how important it is for you to eliminate any risk of downtime in your control room. That's why we're proud of our 99.99% uptime rate.

Find out more

If you'd like to find out more about how we can help your control room take advantage of the latest technology, let us know at or call us on 01482 808300.