Six-year development leads to launch of Multi Agency Incident Transfer standard for organisations to share data on emergencies
The Government has launched an open standard for emergency services aimed at improving the exchange of data between control rooms and speeding up response times.
It has formally released of the Multi Agency Incident Transfer (MAIT) standard today, following a six-year development project and a trial involving emergency services, the Government Digital Service, the Department for Transport (DfT), local authorities and business process management company Capita.
The MAIT schema, which grew out of the Direct Electronic Incident Transfer trial in Wales, makes it possible to send critical incident data securely to a number of emergency service organisations in a standard format. Information goes into a hub, run by HM Coastguard from its Fareham and Aberdeen offices, and appears identical to fire, ambulance or police operators regardless of the command and control system or supplier used.
It is aimed at speeding up responses by preventing the need for the services to call one other when joint assistance is required, and improve the accuracy of the location data by allocating a unique property reference number (UPRN) to each incident.
The Cabinet Office said the trial in Wales had shown significantly improved response times, and that there will be a number of other benefits from the standards, relevant to incidents such as terror attacks, road traffic accidents and flooding. These include streamlining the flow of incident information between agencies, allowing control centres to communicate in real time, and helping to form a common operating picture.
It should also help category 1 emergency responder to maintain their business continuity arrangements in line with the Civil Contingencies Act.
James Findlay of GDS said the DfT is working on the establishment of hubs across the country aimed at accelerating the take-up of MAIT by the emergency services. The department is also looking at how it can support its agencies - HM Coastguard, British Transport Police and Highways England - in adopting it quickly.
Cabinet Office Minister Matt Hancock said: “When we heard that some control centres would rely on fax machines to communicate with each other during an emergency situation, something had to be done.
“Improving digital communications is a crucial step, and the valuable work, conducted by the Government in partnership with the emergency services will make a tangible difference across the UK in times of emergency or crisis.”
HM Coastguard has also been involved in the project. Its head of coastal operations, Charles Ball, said: “As the only national emergency service it is vital that we have a common standard and common procedure when dealing with our sister services.
“This joined up thinking is vital if we are to deliver safety and security to the British public and provide for people in need at sea and on land.”
Picture from Scott Davidson (modified), CC 2.0 via flickr