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Caithness News Bulletins November 2004

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Highlands and Islands Labour MSP Maureen Macmillan visited Inverness Fire Station to meet with the Firemaster and control room staff. A review of Fire Brigade control rooms in Scotland may result in the present eight being reduced to one, two or three. Mrs Macmillan is strongly in favour of the retention of the Inverness fire brigade control room, which could be achieved within the three control room option.

Mrs Macmillan said, “If it is ultimately decided that the present eight fire brigade control room configuration is to be abolished I would hope the three control room option would be adopted. This would allow for two control rooms in the central belt and one in the North. The Highlands and Islands Fire Brigade has a vast geographical area and unique logistical problems to face and Inverness is, I would argue, the most central location for a control room covering the Highlands and Islands, Grampian and possibly North Tayside.

During my visit I met with Firemaster Brian Murray and his control room staff and learned more about the work carried out in the existing control room. Control room staff deal with the logistics of sending out appliances, to heath fires for example, which can take days to deal with and where arrangements have to be made to rotate firefighter’s vehicles while maintaining fire cover across the entire area. However, they also have to keep in constant touch with the firefighters to support them and with members of the public who have reported a fire and who need advice and reassurance, particularly if they are inside a building, which is on fire.

The Inverness fire brigade control room staff handles equipment which is high tech and their work requires skill and sophistication. The importance of their local knowledge was highlighted to me through a training audio tape staff use which exposed the difficulties which can arise establishing the
location of a particular fire; difficulties which can only be resolved through a high degree of local knowledge.”

Mrs Macmillan added, “I am more certain than ever of the importance of retaining the fire brigade control room at Inverness, particularly with the wealth of experience now built up dealing with incidents on our islands and remote landward areas. A three control room configuration is presently used by the Scottish Ambulance Service, which has an Inverness control room and this could be mirrored by the fire service.

Given the importance of this issue to the Highlands and Islands I shall continue to lobby for the retention of the Inverness fire brigade control room.”