Inter-agency collaboration between fire and police departments can make a huge impact on communities. In this HxGN Radio podcast, learn how New Zealand Fire and Emergency collaborates with New Zealand Police to better protect citizens, preserve life, reduce fire risks and incidences, and limit damage.
ZN: How can multiple public safety agencies work together to better protect citizens and mitigate risks? That’s the question I’m going to be exploring today with Gavin Travers from Fire and Emergency New Zealand. Gavin, welcome to the show.
GT: Thank you.
ZN: We could start briefly. We’d love for you just to start by describing your role at Fire and Emergency New Zealand.
GT: My role at Fire and Emergency New Zealand is a new role, established two years ago, as the National Communications Center Manager. And that also includes medical response.
ZN: Can you talk a little bit more about what it is that you’re doing with the department? Kind of your day to day, and the expanse of that role?
GT: So, I’ve been in Fire and Emergency for some 36 years. I started out as a firefighter and worked my way up to what I think is the American equivalent as a battalion chief. However, nowadays, my role is looking after our 111 call answering system, which is effectively like your 911. And for my sins, I have also been given the role of medical response.
GT: In our country, the agencies—fire, police, and EMS or ambulance—are completely separate.
ZN: So, you’ve seen it all.
GT: I wouldn’t say I’ve seen it all, but I’ve seen a lot.
ZN: You’ve seen a lot. All right. Beautiful. I know that here, there are unique relationships between police and fire, and I was curious in terms of New Zealand, what is your fire and emergency … what is that relationship like with the New Zealand police?
GT: Our relationship’s really good. We’ve been co-located in the same building on the same floor and using the same CAD product for the last 21 years, since 1998.
ZN: And it’s been pretty smooth across the board? How’s that relationship been working, then, as you’ve been using that CAD?
GT: The relationship’s really good. To get the best situational awareness for our first responders, it’s important that we have a good relationship with the police. Although we’re a small component or a small user of the same CAD system, about 20% of the total CAD product. But the relationship is really important. So that the information that we gather for our first responders, if we don’t know something and the police do, like we got the call from the police perhaps, then we just walk across the room and say, “Hey, you know that call we’re going to? Got any more information?”
ZN: Yeah. So that’s the CAD side. Are there any other additional technologies that you guys use to help facilitate that interagency collaboration?
GT: In New Zealand, despite the fact that we’re on the sort of southeast coast off Australia, we’re a long way away from anybody. And we’re quite a small country with only sort of 4.8 million people. And we’ve got three communication centers. So they’re all set up slightly different, but they’re all working virtualized across the same platform. Whatever you do in one center, you see in another center. That, by virtue of being virtualized, is very good for information sharing. And even though the ambulance service is not sharing the same CAD system, we have a product called InterCAD that goes between the two of them. So, any incidences that we have, it doesn’t matter the agency that generates the call, we can share it electronically with the other agencies.
ZN: That’s not just then fire and emergency and police, you’re saying that there is a holistic sharing of information across the board through all sort of public response departments.
GT: Yep, that’s exactly what I’m saying. We’ve got a very good relationship with ambulance as well. And in those three communication center locations, Christchurch is the gold standard, I suppose you would say. And that standard means that we have got the three services co-located on the same floor in the same building, even though police and fire use one system, and ambulance use another.
ZN: Okay. That’s great. Initially I wanted to focus on police, but if there’s more, then please feel free. But, what are some of the benefits that you’ve experienced since fire and emergency and police have started working closer together? Or at least since you guys started using that first CAD system some, what, 20 years ago?
GT: It’s twofold, really. One is the relationship that we have on the floor and being able to question each other if we want more information. And the second thing is the benefit that provides to our first responders in both agencies means they have richer information to respond to the call with. I would say that’s the primary benefit of being co-located in the same system.
ZN: Okay. So then for agencies that do not have the benefit, then, of being physically located on the same floor, right? Are there any other pieces of advice that you would give these other agencies that are looking to replicate that interagency collaboration?
GT: Sure. If you’re not co-located and you’re not sharing the same system, then you need to have a very good relationship where you can pick up the phone and ask questions. And asking questions is a very good thing to do for first responders, so that they have got the best information that they can be prepared with before they arrive on scene. So, the sharing of information, having the good relationship, being co-located, that’d all be recommendations from me as a good model that we’re practicing now.
ZN: You would say, then, that in terms of interagency collaboration, the most important thing is just a solid relationship on which to have that kind of communication across lines.
GT: That is 100% without a doubt.
ZN: Okay. Final question, in your view as we move back to New Zealand real quick, are there any particular trends or developments that you think are going to impact the involvement of emergency response systems?
GT: I think there’s a bunch of those.
GT: Like America and other parts of the world, they’re going through next-generation of 911 or 111 equivalent for us, that provides a lot of opportunity. The G5 LTE radio network, cell phone network, will provide a lot more opportunity to be able to share data information. And that means we can take more information from the caller. Somebody might call in and report a motor vehicle accident or a building fire, and they could also send us a video or a photo of the building. That gives us really good situational awareness, and we can pass that on to our first responders and say, this looks like the real McCoy.
ZN: Want to give a big thank you to our guest today, Gavin, and if you want more information about today’s topic, please visit www.hexagonsafetyinfrastructure.com. If you want to listen to additional episodes or learn more, please visit hxgnspotlight.com. Your host Zach Nickels, thanks for tuning in.