New British Fire Trucks Sit in Storage Because Phones and Radios Don’t Work

Posted on Dec 29 2009 - 7:53am by Holly Robinson

Self-storage facility owners are always happy to provide storage for vehicles, if they have the space. But it is a shame to see fire trucks sitting in storage when they are needed in service. 

England is installing new Firelink radios in its Fire and Rescue Service vehicles. The new radios will allow fire trucks to communicate directly, via a secure digital link, with the centers that receive emergency calls. The new fire trucks, which the British government refers to as Enhanced Command Support vehicles, also are equipped with satellite phones and mobile phone networks. The new system was described by the British government as “ET phone home communications.” 

Unfortunately, the new technology, which cost  £1.5 million, does not work, and nine of the new fire engines have been put into temporary storage as a result. A Fire Brigades Union spokesman, disgusted with the situation, commented, 

The vehicles have no crews and have been in storage since they were supplied. The Government spun the launch of the vehicles then covered up the fact they don’t work properly. 

The Government has supplied poor quality kit to the fire service….The fact they gave these vehicles such over the top spin makes them even more red-faced.

Ministers claimed this was ET phone home technology — ET did better with a bike and a bin lid.

The Fire Brigades Union spokesman was particularly displeased because the Fire Brigades Union was not immediately informed about the problems with the new fire engines. They found out only by chance that the fire engines were in storage, because there was a fire at the fire service college in Gloucestershire where the new engines were originally stored, and the Fire Brigade was called to put the fire out. Eleven of the older fire engines were destroyed in the blaze, and the new Enhanced Command Support fire engines then had to be moved to a different temporary facility.

The Communities and Local Government Minister, Shahid Malik, said the technology would be fixed and working this March. “Although the vehicles are not yet fully operational or permanently located within individual services,” he said yesterday, “they have been used to good effect in three incidents and exercises, most recently during last month’s floods in Cumbria. Minor technical issues have been encountered with the satellite communications capability which provides a basic level of communications in the event of an unlikely, but serious and protracted, disruption of other communications systems.” 

When the new Enhanced Command Support fire trucks finally do go into service, they will be assigned to Hereford, Worcester, Cumbria, Devon and Somerset, Gloucestershire, Hampshire, Kent, North Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire, and Suffolk. The fire trucks were originally scheduled to go into service in 2008.