Emergency response schema ‘national infrastructure’ planned following Welsh roll out

16 Jul 2015, 1:22 pm

A consortium of emergency service organisations will roll out a schema across all Fire, Ambulance and Police organisations in Wales that allows them to share more accurate information electronically and improve response times.

Ambulance_voicenetAll three Welsh fire authorities and Gwent Police are already using the Multi Agency Information Transfer (MAIT) schema to securely share information in this way.

Dyfed Powys police, South Wales Police, North Wales Police and the Welsh Ambulance Services NHS Trust will follow in the coming months and the remainder will come on board by April 2016.

Originally developed for the Highways Agency, the schema allows critical incident data to be sent securely to one or many emergency service organisations in a standard format.

Information appears the same to operators regardless of command and control system or supplier and during the pilot phase, use of the schema reduced phone calls from the public from four minutes to 16 seconds.

One of the ways that the schema speeds up response is by preventing the need for emergency service organisations to call one other when joint assistance is required. This is common practice according to Tony Bracey, MAIT Project Manager at Joint Emergency Services Group (JESG) Wales, the lead organisation behind the initiative, meaning operators repeat information while a member of the public awaits assistance.

MAIT also improves the accuracy of the location data that emergency services depend on by allocating a Unique Property Reference Number (UPRN) to each incident. “UPRN acts as common reference number when sharing information on emergency incidents. It’s the common thread”, said Bracey.

“There were incidences of taking a call from public and not knowing the address. By having all emergency services using the same data set, you can guarantee all emergency services will be turning up to the same address”, he said.

Emergency services in Wales no longer maintain their own address gazetteers, and instead take a direct feed from UPRN provider, GeoPlace. “There’s a resource saving by not maintaining their own gazetteers”, said Bracey.

Organisations do not need to upgrade or change their IT systems to use the schema. “We tried to come up with a mechanism that meant we don’t need to change the system people are already using”, said Bracey. “The standard means that they continue working with same system they’ve been trained on and are comfortable with”.

Next, JESG Wales plans to roll out the schema to emergency services in England. Talks have begun with authorities in the North West region, Police forces in the East Midlands and the South East Coast Ambulance Service. “We’re trying to create a national infrastructure to allow English emergency services to use the same approach”, said Bracey.

“The standard’s the easy bit. The project is not that technical. This is about persuading agencies to work together, and persuading command and control room managers and Chief Fire Officers that if you introduce this approach you can save lives and a hell of a lot of time”.

MAIT was developed by JESG Wales in collaboration with British Association of Public Safety Communications Officials (British APCO), the Cabinet Office, Welsh Government and ACPO members from both the emergency services and the commercial sector.

Cabinet Office has published details of MAIT on its Standards Hub for public comment until 17 July. Read more on sister publication UKAuthority.