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Emergency Services Network Upgrades ‘Carry Big Implementation Risks’

The current system is expensive and has poor data capabilities.

The National Audit Office (NAO) has come out and said that upgrades to the Emergency Services Network (ESN), the communications system that the UK's emergency services use, carry a big risk where implementation is concerned since the system is not utilised nationwide anywhere in the world as yet.

Airwave, the current system and one that has been in use since April 2010, has been effective and averaged 99.9 per cent availability in the past six years, but it is expensive and has poor data capabilities. As such the government has chosen to replace it with the Emergency Services Network, which the NAO has now described as "high risk".

Amyas Morse, head of the NAO, said: "The programme remains inherently high risk and while steps have been taken to manage these risks, we are concerned that these are under-rated in the Home Office and elsewhere. The programme needs to put in place more independent testing and assurance regimes for its technical solution and urgently improve its approach to engaging with the emergency services."

ESN is expected to save money by using parts of the EE 4G network, but there are technical challenges that will need to be overcome, including working with EE to bolster the resilience and coverage of the network so it's the same as Airwave, as well as coming up with vehicle-mounted and handheld devices that would work on ESN, as none of these currently exist.

The main contracts for ESN were awarded in December last year, with service set to begin between July and September next year. And the transition to ESN will be made between 2017 and 2020. You can read more about ESN and what to expect in the near future on the Ready For ESN website.

For help with emergency preparation, get in touch with us at HFR Solutions CIC today.

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