999 callers may soon be able to live-stream incidents to control room

West Midlands Fire Service is piloting a smartphone app that allows 999 callers to live-stream footage of incidents directly to emergency services. Called 999EYE the app, which is being tested internally by the fire service before it decides on a launch date for public use, could be rolled out across not just other fire services but other blue-light services too. Callers who download the app will be sent a live-streaming link via text.

When they click on this link they will be able to send footage or images that will help control room staff better understand the nature of an incident before firefighters are sent out and improve decision-making on manpower, equipment and strategy. The link, which can only be used once, also includes the caller s GPS coordinates, so could boost 999 response times too. Called 999EYE the app was developed by Capita at a cost of 70,000, much of which the fire service hopes to recoup through commercial applications. The idea for the app was born in 2014 in the wake of a fire at a recycling plant in Smethwick, during which 100,000 tonnes of recycled plastic belched toxic smoke and fumes into the sky. The fire service decided that the fire could have been contained more quickly if they could gauge the scale of fires earlier. Responding to incidents safely, quickly and assertively is key to reducing casualties and damage to property, said Steve Taylor of West Midlands Fire Service. It will help to ensure that people get the most appropriate response, complementing the skills of our expert control staff in obtaining information from 999 callers. Said Chris Jones, CEO of PageOne, which is part of Capita: This is a ground-breaking solution that has the potential to deliver significant benefits to blue light services and the general public. In addition to fire and rescue services, this technology could advance the way 999 calls are reported and dealt with by the police, ambulance services, the maritime and coastguard agency and mountain rescue services across the UK.

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