Working in partnership with NEC, Isle of Man has become the world’s first TETRA integrated tri-force emergency services control room.
The Isle of Man, although situated in the heart of the British Isles, is an internally self-governing dependent territory of the British Crown and a member of the British Commonwealth. The Island’s population of 76,300 inhabitants can double during the famous TT racing event, held each summer. And is the principle attraction that draws many international tourists to the area.
In 2001, the UK Government launched their ‘Invest to Save’ initiative. Designed to encourage two or more public bodies to jointly initiate new processes. And streamline for a more effective modes of service. This inspired the Isle of Man Government to look closely at its own Emergency Services.
The Isle of Man Government recognised the need to provide interoperability in its communications. And replace its separate Emergency Service analogue mobile radio systems by a single communications network.
After consideration of the available options they decided to move to a Terrestrial Trunked Radio network (TETRA). The benefit of TETRA is that it offers a secure and reliable single solution. That meets the requirements of the 16 user groups that would eventually be using it. These groups included the Emergency Services and other key Government agencies such as Transport, Forestry and Utilities.
At the time, the three separate Emergency Services lacked many of the facilities essential in any modern Control Room, such as computer aided despatch, integrated voice and data control, geographical information systems and incident and resource management. The joined-up Government initiative and the implementation of TETRA provided the underlying framework for the heads of all the 16 services. Including Police, Fire and Ambulance, upon which a multi-disciplined Control Room was built – the first in the world.
“This is not a shared facility and not three services working independently, but truly joined up emergency services. We have proved it can be done and we would encourage others to do the same.”
Consolidation of the three existing control rooms into an island-wide communications facility meant that the Communications Division could implement modern command, control, and despatch facilities. Effective and efficient utilisation of resources was essential, as was the facilitation of improved emergency services call handling. Taking all of these requirements into consideration and working closely with the primary agencies, NEC (then APD Communications) was selected to provide a solution comprising its Cortex Integrated Communications Control System (ICCS).
Cortex was the first ICCS on the market to merge radio despatch, telephone call handling and video monitoring into a powerful networked communications tool over the TETRA network, providing seamless access to voice, video and text communications, whilst linked to call handling and command and control systems.
Automatic call prioritisation presents incidents directly to the touchscreen consoles of the Control Room operators, who have instant access to databases and applications within the same system, giving total single-seat control.
Time is a precious commodity when dealing with emergency situations and the ability to be able to route and queue calls according to priority and present them directly to the operator touchscreen consoles reduces the time taken to log incidents. As a consequence, the elapsed time from call to despatch is also significantly decreased.
In June 2005, just weeks after the TETRA network and joint Control Room went live, the Isle of Man infrastructure was severely tested by the annual TT motorbike race week. The emergency services had to deal with over 200 incidents, including more than 120 road traffic accidents and there were over 8,000 radio, transmissions per day, as opposed to a normal level of 3,000, and over 750 ‘999’ calls. Robert Williamson commented, “This unprecedented level of voice communication during the TT was handled extremely well by both the Motorola TETRA network and Cortex, making it a reliable solution in extreme situations.
In September 2015, we worked with the Isle of Man Department of Home Affairs to integrate Cortex® with the DCS (Generation 3) solution via a single DCS Server which can support multiple TETRA clients simultaneously.
This project was completed in conjunction with Motorola, who delivered the underlying DCS infrastructure for the solution. The project was deployed seamlessly to the control room, making both the existing TETRA (Centracom) and new TETRA (DCS) solutions available.
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